Internet censorship in Singapore

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Internet censorship in Singapore is carried out by the Media Development Authority (MDA). Internet services provided by the three major Internet service providers (ISPs) are subject to regulation by the MDA, which requires blocking of a symbolic number of websites containing "mass impact objectionable" material, including Playboy, YouPorn and Ashley Madison.[1] The Ministry of Education, polytechnics, universities and Institute of Technical Education has its own jurisdiction to block websites displaying pornography, information about drugs and online piracy.


In July 2001, Dr Tan Chong Kee, the founder of Sintercom, was asked to register the website under the nascent Singapore Broadcast Authority Act (now Media Development Authority). Dr Tan chose to shut down Sintercom due to concerns over the ambiguity of the Act.[2][3]

In April 2005, a blogger, Chen Jiahao, then a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, apologized and shut down his blog containing criticisms on government agency A*STAR, after its Chairman Philip Yeo threatened to sue for defamation.[4]

In September 2005, three people were arrested and charged under the Sedition Act for posting racist comments on the Internet.[5]

The Teachers' Union announced that it was offering legal assistance to teachers who want to take legal action against students who defame them on their blogs, after five students from Saint Andrew's Junior College were suspended for three days for allegedly "flaming" two teachers and a vice-principal on their blogs.[6]

In 2012, an assistant director at National Trades Union Congress membership department was fired for racist comments in Facebook. In a separate incident, a Chinese student was fined for his abusive comments towards Singaporeans.[7][8]

Political content is frequently censored in Singapore. In 2013, Singapore enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent.[9]

In the same year, Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew was charged with sedition for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population, on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. He was charged again for contempt of court for several cartoons questioning Singapore courts for their differential treatment, based on status of nationality and political affiliation of the defendants. The Sedition Act carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a fine of S$5,000 (US $3,939) if found guilty. However the government later withdrew the charge. Chew states that he “was interrogated for over 30 hours and placed under island arrest for 3 months and (had) to report for bail extension 6 times during that period.” [10]

In 2015, a video made by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), titled "Pappy Washing Powder", was deemed a party political film and thus prohibited under the Films Act.[11]

In other incidents, teenagers and expatriates have regularly been arrested by the Singapore police over derogatory, offensive, abusive or threatening comments posted on social media.[12][13][14]

For more information and other cases of Internet freedom infringement in Singapore, see also the Freedom on the Net report by Freedom House.[15]

Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act[edit]

The Computer Misuse Act (CMA) was introduced in 1993 and its offence provisions are based primarily on the United Kingdom’s 1990 legislation of the same name.[16] In the years since, the government has taken a much tougher stand on Internet-related matters, including censorship. Amendments to the Penal Code in 2006 hold Internet users liable for "causing public mischief", and give the authorities broader powers in regulating Internet content.[17][18] Following the 2013 Singapore cyberattacks, the Computer Misuse Act was renamed to Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.

List of banned websites[edit]

The MDA maintains a list of 100 banned websites. The number of websites banned is symbolic and will not change under current legislation.[19] When trying to access a blocked site, visitors are usually greeted by a green box MDA message "This website is not available as it violates the laws in Singapore" (for Remote Gambling Act 2014 / Obscene Materials Act 1997), although separate systems such as BlueCoat Web Filtering Service also have an error screen. Certain ISP (MyRepublic/M1/ViewQuest) also have "Error 404 - Site blocked". The MDA message is only applicable to public places and office buildings. The Site Blocked message is applicable to most homes.[20]

In 2005, the MDA banned a gay website and fined another website following complaints that the sites contained offensive content. The banned website is said to have promoted promiscuous sexual behaviour and recruited underage boys for sex and nude photography.[21]

Since 8 July 2014, sites infringing copyright have also been blocked.[citation needed]

On 7 October 2014, the government passed the "Remote Gambling Act".[22] Under the new law it is an offence, punishable by jail terms and fines, for people to place bets on overseas gambling websites from Singapore. Advertisements for gambling websites are also outlawed. The law took effect on 1 February 2015 when several hundred remote gambling websites were blocked.[23]

Opposition to Internet censorship[edit]

Internet censorship circumvention is the process used by Internet users to bypass the technical aspects of Internet filtering and gain access to otherwise censored material.

Circumvention software[edit]

Software applications for circumventing web-blocking are readily available. Tor is in use through software including xB Browser and Vidalia, and a number of other proxy solutions including Proxify. Freenet is another popular solution available for free download from the Internet. GOM, a browser extension, is circumvention software specifically made for use in Singapore.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee, Melanie (23 May 2008). "Singapore bans two porn websites in symbolic move". Reuters. 
  2. ^ Tan Chong Kee. 'The Canary and the Crow: Sintercom and the State Tolerability Index' in Kenneth Paul Tan ed. Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics. Singapore University Press 2007.
  3. ^ Interview with Dr Tan Chong Kee, Singapore-Window,Accessed: 23-Dec-2006.
  4. ^ A*STAR Accepts Mr Chen Jiahao's Apology
  5. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005, United States Department of State, retrieved 20 March 2006.
  6. ^ "Schools act against students for 'flaming' teachers on blogs", Sandra Davie and Liaw Wy-Cin, The Straits Times, page 1, 27 September 2005.
  7. ^ NTUC sacks staff for inappropriate Facebook comments,, 8 October 2012.
  8. ^ [1],, 2 January 2013.
  9. ^ [2]Reuters, 26 July 2013
  10. ^ [3]Cartoonists Rights, 31 July 2013
  11. ^ [4]Today Online, 17 August 2015
  12. ^ [5],, 2 January 2013.
  13. ^ [6]Bloomberg, 26 July 2015
  14. ^ [7]New York Times, 24 March 2016
  15. ^ [8]Freedom House,2015
  16. ^ An Overview of Cybercrime Legislation and Cases in Singapore, Gregor Urbas, Asian Law Institute (ANU), October 2008.
  17. ^ Mixing welfare and elitism in Singapore, Alex Au, Asia Times Online, 23 November 2006.
  18. ^ Consultation Paper on the Proposed Penal Code Amendments Archived 23 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine., Ministry of Home Affairs, 8 November 2006
  19. ^ "Censorship review committee Report of 2003" (PDF). Media Development Authority. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "The coming age of internet censorship". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  21. ^ "Singapore bans gay website". The Age Australia. 2005-10-28. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Singapore poised to block all roads to unlicensed gambling websites". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 8 April 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Singapore Blocks Access to Overseas Gambling Websites", Agence France-Presse (AFP), 3 February 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  24. ^ "How to access MDA blocked sites in Singapore with Chrome Browser". GOMVPN. Retrieved 9 April 2015. [better source needed]