Singapore's Internet Regulations Face Resistance

On June 1, Singapore introduced new internet regulations. Now some of the biggest web-based corporations are pushing back.

The reformed rules affect not just licensing and fees, but also allow the government of Singapore to decide what kind of information is acceptable to be on the internet. Reuters explains the new restrictions: 

[…] websites that regularly report on Singapore would have to be licensed and listed 10 news sites that would be affected, based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month.

Websites affected by the new licensing regime would have to put up a S$50,000 ($39,300) performance bond as well as take down within 24 hours any story that authorities deemed objectionable.

Consequently, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and eBay, working together as the Asia Internet Coalition, are pushing back to persuade the Singaporean government to change its mind. These companies have major stakes in Singapore's economy, where billions of dollars are invested and over one hundred thousand workers of the city-state's population of 3 million work in the web industry.

The internet giants wrote an open letter to express their dismay at the potential harm the new regulations will cause. “The current vague and broad terms in the regulation and implementation will hamper innovation and deter industry growth,” they state. Furthermore, they believe the regulations are “onerous, regressive and untenable in practice.”

However, the city-state has rejected the accusations. According to the Wall Street Journal, Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, stated that the new regulations have “nothing to do with doing business in Singapore. It is about holding certain websites to a higher level of responsibility” and that they are “not a departure from the ‘light-touch’ regulatory approach that the government has adopted for the Internet.”

The city-state's decision was an unexpected move. Singapore is a financial powerhouse and, according to the Heritage Foundation's 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, the 2nd freest nation in the world. Heritage explains that "the overall regulatory environment remains one of the world’s most transparent and efficient. With no minimum capital required, launching a business takes only three days." 

Although corporations are focusing on the potential economic impact of the new regulations, they are not alone in resisting the measures. They have an ally in Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization. Wary of the potential censorship that could arise, a representative said the HRW hopes that the letter will “give Singapore serious pause about its approach,” according to Reuters.

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  • Auric Demonocles||

    RE alt-text: I cringed, but I liked it.

  • Warrren||

    Authoritarians are gonna authoritay!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Yeah, Singapore is pretty authoritarian. But the Indian food is orgasmic!

  • Warrren||

    You're not supposed to fuck the Vindaloo.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Indian food is a good thing.

    We had Indian food at a place in Boone, NC that was quite good. Surprising, since what we usually eat there is Southern cuisine. Fried anything.

  • ||

    Yeah, can we stop pretending Singapore is a free country, already?

    I cringe every time I see it near the top of the "economically free" rankings. Sure your taxes are low, just don't open up a business that might somehow facilitate criticism of the government.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Statists on the right like to hold up Singapore as an example of better living through government. There's a ringing endorsement of its freedom.

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, this. Freedom is a broad brush stroke. Can you carry a gun in Singapore? Canada?

  • Duke||

    And isn’t being caught with any drug the death penalty? Oh, but Jim Rogers thinks it’s the tops!

  • NebulousFocus||

    Some people value economic freedom more than civil liberties. Personally, I require both, so I can't stand it here.

  • DRM||

    We've got Freedom House busy ranking other components of freedom and ignoring the economics; why reduplicate their work?

  • Paul.||

    "light touch regulatory" approach... Isn't this the same Light Touch the Obama administration, Dick Durbin, Media Matters and the FCC want to apply to American Internets?

  • Warrren||

  • KDN||

    Tara Reid is involved and can't even get top billing. It's amazing how some bad plastic surgery and an insane reality show can kill your career.

  • Calidissident||

    I don't think anyone has ever held up Singapore as an example of libertarianism. People may have credited it for its economic freedom and relative economic prosperity, but that's not calling it a libertarian state anymore than pointing to Portugal's experience with drug decriminalization is calling Portugal a libertarian state.

    "no heroine on the streets."

    How sexist

  • ||

    City-statists!

  • Juice||

    heh heh

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    Singapore is a corporate whore. No wonder Bernie Ecclestone is so adamant on keeping a boring and struggling F1 race alive there.

  • NebulousFocus||

    All F1 races are boring.

  • affenkopf||

    Blasphemy!

  • Agammamon||

    This isn't unexpected - no matter how 'economically' free Singapore is (and its only free in the sense of minimal regulation for business the government *allows*), Singapore has never been socially free.

    Censorship is rampant and there is regulation (with some vicious punishments) in every aspect of a citizen's private life.

  • IceTrey||

    And how are they going to enforce this on sites located outside of Singapore?

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