in a nutshell
The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has approved the Online Safety (Other Amendments) Bill (“Specification“) For the first reading in parliament on 3 October 2022, the proposed regulation of providers of online communication services (OCS) with significant reach or impact accessible to end-users in Singapore and the malicious We have established measures to prevent access to unauthorized content.
The bill aims to improve the safety of online users, especially children, and curb the spread of harmful content on OCS.
Designated providers of such OCS are subject to the Code of Conduct (“code“) was issued by the Information and Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to increase online safety for end-users in Singapore and curb the spread of harmful content on their services.
Such harmful content includes:
- sexual content
- violent content
- Suicide and self-harm content
- cyberbullying content
- Content that endangers public health
- Content that promotes unscrupulous crimes and organized crime
In addition to Internet access service providers, designated OCS providers are also subject to instructions from IMDA to disable, suspend and block access to harmful content for end-users in Singapore. Subjects of these instructions must take all steps reasonably practicable to comply.
In proposing the bill, MCI followed a previous public consultation on proposed measures to enhance online safety for users of Singapore-based social media services, released on 13 July 2022. We have considered the feedback received inconsultation”). See our previous alert outlining suggestions (Government proposes code of conduct to regulate harmful online content on social media).
This warning highlights a key section of the bill expected by providers of social media services, OCS’ first designation.
If enacted, the bill would significantly amend the Broadcast Act (BA) 1994. To avoid double regulation of online communication services as licensable broadcasting services, BA is amended so that he creates two different regimes.
The BA will be extended to regulate all providers of OCS offered inside or outside of Singapore. Currently, the OCS specified in Schedule 4 refers only to social media services.
The regulation of social media services applies to all content published on the internet, even if it was published before the legislation’s amendments went into effect. that date.
However, the OCS definition excludes some electronic services, such as sending short text or multimedia messages.
The bill defines “malicious content” to include content that:
- Suicide or self-harm, physical or sexual violence, and promoting terrorism
- depictions of child sexual exploitation
- Possess a public health risk in Singapore
- Likely to cause racial and religious discord in Singapore
The bill also states that if an OCS provider knows, or should reasonably know, that it is providing malicious content but does not comply with the instructions in Section 45H, it stipulated to be a crime.
IMDA is authorized to issue any of the following instructions under Section 45H to OCS Providers of Malicious Content:
- To disable and prevent access by end-users in Singapore
- To stop delivering or communicating content to end users in Singapore
During consultations, industry groups requested flexibility regarding content removal timelines given the severity of the harmful content and the resources of the service. MCI has ensured that IMDA clearly designates the malicious content of concern when issuing these directives to social media services. The timeline takes into account the need to reduce user exposure to the dissemination of malicious content on the service.
Further, if IMDA determines that an OCS Provider given any of the instructions in Section 45H above has failed to comply with such instructions. In addition, if an internet access service controls Singaporean end-user access to content provided by an OCS provider, IMDA may issue a Section 45I blocking instruction to the provider of that internet access service. there is.
However, the bill would prevent OCS from civil and criminal liability for anything done (or omitted to be done) during the course of an OCS if the OCS complies with a section 45H directive or a section 45I prohibited directive. Or protect your internet access service provider. With reasonable care and good faith.
Failure to comply with the instructions may constitute a violation and, if convicted, SGD 1 million for OCS providers who fail to comply with the instructions of Section 45H and SGD 1 million for Internet access services who fail to comply with the instructions of Section 45I. A fine of 500,000 will be imposed.
Under the bill, IMDA’s powers do not extend to private communications.
IMDA designates OCS with significant reach or influence in Singapore as Regulatory OCS (ROCS), subject to compliance with the Codes of Practice (COP) issued by IMDA under the BA. There is currently no legal guidance on what “significant reach or impact” means.
The COP requires ROCS providers to take steps in their services to reduce the risk of harm to users in Singapore from exposure to harmful content and to provide accountability to users for such actions. may occur.
Section 45L(4) sets out the scope of requirements that the COP may impose on ROCS providers as follows:
- Establish systems or processes that IMDA considers appropriate to:
- Prevent users in Singapore (particularly children) from accessing content that presents a serious risk of serious harm
- Mitigate and manage the risk of harm to users in Singapore from content on the Service
- Compliance with procedures such as:
- Preparation and submission of annual audits and accountability reports to verify compliance and report on the effectiveness of measures to combat harmful content
- Inform IMDA about the measures taken to ensure the safe use of the service by users in Singapore
- Conduct a risk assessment of the systemic risks posed by the Services and take reasonable and effective steps aimed at mitigating those risks;
- Contribute or cooperate in the conduct of research studies by IMDA-approved experts to enable IMDA to understand the nature and level of risks inherent in ROCS and the evolution and severity of those risks
IMDA may also provide practical guidance on what content poses a “significant risk of serious harm” to users in Singapore, as the term “serious harm” is not currently defined. I have.
Although COPs have no legal effect, Section 45M requires all ROCS providers to take all reasonably practicable steps to comply with the applicable COPs when issued. doing. Her ROCS provider who fails to do so may be held liable for any of the following actions:
- IMDA ordered to pay penalty of up to SGD 1 million
- I was instructed to take steps to repair the fault
Failure to comply with IMDA remedial instructions is a crime and will result in conviction and fines for ROCS providers.
A second legislative reading of the bill is scheduled for November 2022, and given the extensive industry and public consultations held by MCI prior to the drafting of the bill, the bill will likely be subject to minimal or no changes. It is expected to pass without any changes at all. MCI has not yet announced a revised BA start date.
During that time, MCI has encouraged social media services to implement systems and processes to protect against harmful online content. MCI is committed to adopting an outcome-based approach to enhancing online safety, asking social media services to take into account their unique operating models to address harmful online content on their services. gives you the flexibility to develop and implement the most appropriate solution for
MCI also encourages social media services to do more to raise user awareness of the safety features available on their services and to educate users about self-help resources.
One of the key features is giving young users and their parents access to tools that allow them to manage their exposure to harmful content and unwanted interactions. These include tools that limit the exposure of young users’ accounts to the public, and tools that limit who can contact and interact with young users.
We are happy to provide specific advice tailored to your needs on how best to prepare for the upcoming actions anticipated under the amended BA.