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S'pore to join other countries with laws to improve online safety

S'pore to join other countries with laws to improve online safety

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 21 Jun 2022
Author: Rei Kurohi & Dominic Low

The new rules aim to minimise users' risk of exposure to damaging online content.

Video "challenges" that ask viewers to film themselves performing dangerous acts can go viral rapidly through social media platform algorithms and user interest, and lead to injuries and deaths.

Terrorist acts captured on videos through live-streaming can have their impact exacerbated when these clips are reshared online.

These were examples given by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) yesterday of how harmful online content can be amplified on social media services, which are the focus of proposed rules to enhance online safety for users.

The proposed new rules include requiring designated social media platforms to implement community standards and content moderation processes so as to minimise users' risk of exposure to damaging online content. Public consultations on these regulations will begin next month.

The ministry said Singapore is not immune to online harms such as religiously or racially offensive content that can incite religious intolerance and prejudice racial harmony here, as well as abusive online behaviour.

It cited an online survey by the Sunlight Alliance for Action - a cross-sector alliance that tackles online dangers - which revealed that nearly half of more than 1,000 Singaporeans polled have had personal experiences with online harms.

Also, 61 per cent of them who had encountered gender-based online harms had experienced them mainly on popular social media services.

MCI said mandating upstream processes and measures will encourage social media services to take greater responsibility for user safety, and reduce harmful online content.

Noting that social media services have put in place community and content standards, MCI said it will continue to work closely with them to develop regulations fit for Singapore's socio-cultural context.

With the new rules, the country joins a growing number of territories that have enacted or proposed laws to regulate online content.

Germany's Network Enforcement Act, which came into force in 2018, prohibits defined types of illegal content on social media networks with more than two million local users.

Among other things, the networks must set up robust processes to handle and act upon complaints by users on content, and publish biannual reports on their content moderation practices.

Firms that contravene their obligations under the Act can face severe penalties, such as a fine of up to €50 million (S$73 million).

Australia's Online Safety Act, which introduces basic safety expectations of online service providers, came into force in January this year.

Under this law, companies that fail to comply with the country's online safety regulator's order to take down illegal and restric-ted content can be fined up to A$555,000 (S$537,000) per offence.

High fines are also set out in the European Union's proposed Digital Services Act, which will set new standards of accountability for illegal and harmful online content. Aimed at providing better protection for Internet users, it is expected to be passed next year.

When it takes effect, companies that fall afoul of the law could be fined up to 6 per cent of their global turnover. In extreme cases, access to the platforms may also be restricted.

Other laws on online content include Britain's proposed Online Safety Bill, which is also expected to be passed next year.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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