Powers granted under the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Bill include blocking social media accounts, Politics News & Top Stories


SINGAPORE – Content from social media accounts could be blocked here if it is determined to be part of a hostile information campaign, under a proposed law to combat foreign interference in the domestic policy.

Under the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill presented to parliament on Monday, September 13, the Home Secretary can order social media providers to prevent content on these accounts from being viewed in Singapore.

The bill would also give the minister the power to give instructions to various entities such as social media services, electronic services, internet access services, as well as people who manage websites, blogs or social media pages.

These powers are intended to help authorities investigate and counter hostile communications activities of foreign origin, the Home Office (MHA) said in a statement outlining the purpose and scope of the new bill.

They do not apply to Singaporeans expressing their own opinions on political matters, unless they are agents of a foreign principal, the MHA said.

Singaporeans have the right to discuss politics. Nor do they apply to foreign individuals or foreign publications reporting or commenting on Singapore politics in an open, transparent and accountable manner, although their comments may be critical to with respect to Singapore or the government, ”he added. noted.

Most of the orientations of the bill can be issued if all of these conditions are met:

– A communication activity is in progress or has taken place

– The activity is carried out by or on behalf of foreign players

– There is information published here resulting from communications

– The Minister of the Interior considers that it is in the public interest to authorize these orientations

Other powers granted to the Minister include issuing technical assistance directives to service providers requiring them to disclose information that authorities need to determine whether a foreign actor is behind harmful communications activity.

This could include hostile information campaigns involving fake accounts or botnets, which the MHA says are “very sophisticated”. The authorities would need information from service providers to determine whether these campaigns are carried out by foreigners.

The Minister can also demand the removal of content that may cause immediate and significant damage to Singapore, such as incitement to violence or hostility between groups, if it is part of a hostile information campaign.

The person communicating specific content to viewers in Singapore and Internet intermediaries may be required to cease doing so.

In the event of non-compliance, the minister can order internet service providers to block access to content, the MHA said.

The bill also provides for an “upstream” intervention of a more preventive nature.

For example, an application removal instruction may be issued to require an application distribution service to prevent the downloading in Singapore of applications known to be used by foreign officials to conduct hostile information campaigns.

This direction can be given if the application has previously been the subject of at least one direction, called MHA. This excludes the technical support department or other application removal department.

Under the proposed law, the government will also be able to require various parties to broadcast a mandatory message in a “visible and timely manner” to warn Singaporeans of a hostile information campaign.

These mandatory instructions can take four forms, covering the communicator, social media companies, newspapers, telecommunications providers and the owner of a website.

To prevent the funding of harmful content in Singapore, the proposed law will also require those who have permitted or published such content to return to their source the money or material support that they have accepted, or to turn it over to an authority. competent appointed by the Minister of Home Affairs.

This rule would apply to Singaporeans, people living here, as well as locally registered entities.

The bill will also target hostile information campaign platforms such as websites created by top foreigners. Such a platform will be designated as an online location providing harmful content once it has been the subject of at least one directive under the draft law, excluding technical assistance directives.

These Banned Online Locations (POL) must then declare themselves as such, and no one will be allowed to purchase advertising space on them or on other websites that promote them. Failure to comply will be an offense.

“The objective is to discredit and demonetize these POLs in order to stem their ability to organize new hostile information campaigns against Singapore,” MHA said.


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