Internet Filtering in Singapore in 2004-2005: A Country Study
July 31, 2005
The Republic of Singapore is an economic leader in Southeast Asia, with a vibrant information and communications technologies sector; however, the state maintains strong formal and informal controls over the information to which its citizens have access. Singapore's official position is that the state filters Internet content to promote social values and maintain national unity, with the goal of denying access to objectionable material, especially pornography and content encouraging ethnic or religious strife. The Media Development Authority (MDA) claims to block only a symbolic list of 100 Web sites (primarily pornography) as a symbol of the state's disapproval of this content. In addition, the MDA encourages, and each of Singapore's three primary Internet Service Providers offers, optional, filtered Internet access services that block additional sites for a minimal monthly fee.
In our testing, the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) found extremely minimal filtering of Internet content in Singapore, as only eight sites of 1,632 tested (.49%) were blocked: www.cannabis.com, www.chick.com, www.formatureaudiencesonly.com, www.penthouse.com, www.persiankitty.com, www.playboy.com, www.playgirl.com, and www.sex.com. The limited blocking that our testing revealed focuses on a few pornographic URLs and one site each in the categories of illegal drugs and fanatical religion. Similar content is readily available at other sites on the Internet that are not blocked in Singapore. Thus, Singapore's Internet content regulation depends primarily on access controls (such as requiring political sites to register for a license) and legal pressures (such as defamation lawsuits and the threat of imprisonment) to prevent people from posting objectionable content rather than technological methods to block it. Compared to other countries that implement mandatory filtering regimes that ONI has studied closely, Singapore's technical filtering system is one of the most limited.
For the full text of this report, please visit http://opennet.net/studies/singapore/