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Singapore lays out proposals to shield young social media users from harmful content; seeks public feedback

Singapore lays out proposals to shield young social media users from harmful content; seeks public feedback
File photo of mobile apps on a screen.(Photo: AFP/ARUN SANKAR)

SINGAPORE: A public consultation was launched on Wednesday (Jul 13) to seek views on the Government's proposed measures to enhance online safety for users of social media platforms, including young people.

There are two sets of proposals announced by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) in June.

The first, a Code of Practice for Online Safety, will require social media services with significant reach or impact to have system-wide processes to mitigate exposure to harmful online content for Singapore-based users, including people below the age of 18.

The second, a Content Code for Social Media Services, will allow Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to direct any social media service to disable local access to content that is deemed harmful to Singapore's society, such as online material that incites racial or religious disharmony.

"We recognise that some social media services have put in place measures to protect their users. However, such measures vary from service to service," said MCI in its public consultation paper.

"Additionally, when evaluating harmful content on social media services, Singapore’s unique socio-cultural context needs to be considered. Given the evolving nature of harmful online content, more can be done, especially to protect young users."

SAFEGUARDS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Under the Code of Practice for Online Safety, authorities are considering requiring designated social media services to have community standards for six categories of content - sexual content, violence, self-harm, cyberbullying, content endangering public health and content facilitating vice and organised crime.

"These designated services will also be expected to moderate content to reduce users’ exposure to such harmful content, for example, to disable access to such content when reported by users," said MCI. 

"For child sexual exploitation and abuse material, and terrorism content, these services will be required to proactively detect and remove such content."

For young users, MCI proposed additional safeguards such as including stricter community standards and tools that allow young people or their parents to manage their exposure to harmful content.

The ministry said these tools could include those that limit the visibility of young users’ accounts to others.

"The tools could be activated by default for services that allow users below 18 to sign up for an account," it added.

Providing examples of harmful sexual content for young users, MCI said these could include content that "depicts sexual activity, even in fictional context"; or content with "implied or obscured depiction of sexual activities".

Examples of harmful violent content for the age group include those with "implied or obscured depiction of violence or gore such as violent content that is blurred or masked"; or content with "implied or obscured depiction of abuse or torture on persons such as content showing infliction of abuse that is partially obscured".

MCI also listed examples of self-harm content, including "content with implied or non-detailed depictions of self-harm, including healed scars and blurred visuals".

"A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH"

MCI said it is taking a collaborative approach to strengthening online safety, working together with stakeholders in the people, private and public sectors.

In addition to ongoing consultations with technology companies, MCI said it will also engage key stakeholder groups, including parents, youths, community partners and academics.

The public consultation will take place from Jul 13 to Aug 10. Members of the public are invited to submit their responses via the survey form on the REACH website by 6pm on Aug 10.

More details of the proposed Codes of Practice can be found in MCI’s public consultation paper, which is also published on the website.

"MCI will review all feedback received and refine its proposals where appropriate," said the ministry.

"A summary of the key feedback received and MCI’s response to the feedback will be published following the conclusion of the public consultation."

Source: CNA/rj(gs)

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