Singapore to individually license websites, require a $50K bond against bad taste

A reader writes, "The Singapore government just announced an intention to begin regulating websites that report on the country, requiring a S$50,000 'performance bond' and compliance with any takedown notices from the government within 24 hours. The reason for this is apparently to regulate content which solicits for prostitution, undermines racial and religious harmony, or 'goes against good taste'. Seems legit."

Dr Yaacob said: "It's about making sure that our regulatory framework is consistent -- that's the most important thing. At the moment, whether we like it or not, Singaporeans are receiving news both from mainstream media and online sites.

"Our mainstream media are subjected to rules, you know... Why shouldn't the online media be part of that regulatory framework?

"I don't see this as a clamping down, if anything, it is regularising what is already happening on the Internet and (making sure) that they are on par with our mainstream media."

The regulation will extend to foreign-hosted sites that report on Singapore, though it's not clear what the Singaporean government will do if, for example, the New York Times declines to obey.

News websites to be individually licensed [Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid/Channel News Asia]


  1. Sounds like a profitable time to start a Singapore targeted classified ad site, since they’ll be helpfully clearing away any locally operated competition.

    1. I’m wondering what they intend to do about Singaporeans posting on non-Singaporean sites like Facebook. I suppose they could arrest them if they use their real name and details, but if the post is anonymous…?

  2. Come, fellow Singaporeans
    Let us progress towards happiness together
    May our noble aspiration bring
    Singapore success

    Come, let us unite
    In a new spirit
    Together we proclaim
    Onward Singapore
    Onward Singapore

    Come, let us unite
    In a new spirit
    Together we proclaim
    Onward Singapore
    Onward Singapore

    Bit of a contrast to “Land of the free”.

      1.  The only way to have managed that feat is to hire more songwriters than (I’m so glad I had to google this) Bieber’s phalanx.

    1. Isn’t it obvious? Taxes are slavery, so countries with extremely low taxes, especially on capital gains(taxes on those crazy ‘wages’ that poor people apparently attempt to earn, or sales taxes, ideally on staple goods, are ok), are Free.

      What could be clearer?

  3. it’s not clear what the Singaporean government will do if, for example, the New York Times declines to obey.

    Let’s not be flippant about this: this could be serious. Sure, if I wanted to start a blog here in the US commenting on Singapore (a thoroughly worthy undertaking, if I knew anything about Singapore, it seems to me), this law would never affect me.

    But if I’m the New York Times and send correspondents to Singapore and even likely collect revenue within Singapore, this law might actually have some bite to it: they have hostages, they can reach me without having to convince any other states to respect their stupid, stupid law.

    Moreover: if I were inclined to start a blog about Singapore, it would probably reflect a great interest I have in Singapore: family there, for instance, or just a great love of the place. I might be inclined to visit – and this law would effectively make that impossible.

    So, yeah: this law is not quite the punchline you’re treating it as.

    1. You have a valid point.  

      The DOJ in America has arrested people on lay-overs in the US who ran non-US online gambling sites, merely because they insist that these sites violate American laws, which they feel they can impose upon the rest of the world by grabbing people from an airport who unwittingly are physically in the US (not processed through immigration or customs).

      If the DOJ can break laws upon their whim, who is to say that the Singaporean Government can’t do the same?

      1. As far as I know you actually _do_ have to go through immigration on a layover in most cases. At the very least you need a valid visa (if you’re not from a visa waiver country). Which is totally nuts of course.

  4. The MDA (Media Development Authority) already blocks a handful of porn websites. I assume that if they find a foreign website to be violating this licensing and censorship program they will be able to add it to the blacklist. That said, the current blocking is no great firewall of China – it is spotty and inconsistent between the different ISPs. So practically, I think all this will do is make it harder on small local news sites.

  5. Presumably the .sg domain will empty out pretty quickly? No small company or private individual could afford to put up $40K security. 

  6. Of course this is convenient both for censorship and for corrupt officials administering it, because I bet they don’t have to support any accusation of “bad taste”, and I bet there’s no appeal if you miss the 24-hour deadline on a takedown notice, or if they decide you didn’t comply fully enough.

    It’s a lot easier to pocket $50K that is already in your possession as a “security” than to take someone to court and make an effective case for fining them the same amount.  The uppity free-speech-loving bastards might even use facts and a sound legal defence to get out of paying!

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