Singapore’s new website licensing regulations put gay content in the firing line

The government of Singapore has introduced licences and tough new regulations for any websites and blogs regularly reporting on the island nation or read by its citizens, including a prohibition on any content that “advocates homosexuality or lesbianism”.

In a statement, the Media Development Authority of Singapore announced a licence will be required for any news website that reports on at least one article of Singaporean news and current affairs per week and attract a readership of more than 50,000 unique Singaporean IP addresses per month over a period of two months.

The MDS justifies its new legislation, which comes into force on June 1 this year, on the grounds that it brings online news websites into line with regulations covering newspapers and television networks.

“Online news sites that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach among readers here will require an individual licence from the Media Development Authority (MDA),” the MDS says in a statement.

“This will place them on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed.”

The MDA’s licence requires website owners to immediately remove any “prohibited content”, which includes “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws”.

According to the new internet code of practice, “whether the material advocates homosexuality or lesbianism” is a key criteria for determining whether a blog or news website violates the prohibited content clause of the code.

“The Licence also makes it clear that online news sites are expected to comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards,” the MDA states.

“The only other additional requirement is that online news sites are required to put up a performance bond like all other individually-licensed broadcasters, and the sum of $50,000 is consistent with that required of niche TV broadcasters.”

Further complicating matters for Australian businesses is the fact that Optus is a wholly owned subsidiary of SingTel, which is in turn owned by Singapore’s state investment arm, Temasek Holdings. Similarly, power distributor SP Austnet is also owned by Temasek, via Singapore Power.

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