Singapore Tells Internet Firms To Prevent Access to Some Material
Mar. 06, 1996
SINGAPORE (AP) _ Singapore has ordered Internet access providers to restrict material on sex, religion and politics.
In addition, libraries, schools and cafes that offer Internet access must supervise how it is used, the government said Tuesday. And it plans to license political parties that wish to distribute information on the global public data network.
The rules appear to be some of the strictest a government has yet attempted regarding the Internet. In recent weeks, Germany has ordered Internet access providers to block sexually oriented and neo-Nazi material and China ordered users to register with the government.
The United States has made it a crime to transmit or display material that is ``patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.'' Lawsuits have been brought in several courts to prevent enforcement of the law and a bill has been introduced in Congress to repeal it.
Singapore Information Minister George Yeo, who announced the new regulations, tried to reassure computer users that they won't affect most Internet activity.
``What goes on privately is not really our concern,'' Yeo said at a news conference. ``Our concern is at the broadcast end, where the content will have a public impact on public morals or the stability of Singapore.''
There are about 100,000 Internet users in Singapore.
The government wants Singapore to take advantage of the Internet, but doesn't want to give up social controls that include restrictions on books, movies and political activity.
It has previously ordered Singapore access providers not to connect to newsgroups whose titles include ``alt.sex.''
The new regulations extend to material that might incite religious or political unrest, said Ahmad Shuhaimi, a spokesman for the Singapore Broadcast Authority, which is to enforce the regulations.
SingNet, one of the country's three access providers, said it could block access to computers, newsgroups and other data identified by the government.
``It is technically possible to do this,'' said Foo Kim Ling, a spokeswoman for SingNet, which is run by the phone company Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.
But Shuhaimi said it isn't clear yet how the regulations will apply to international online services with customers in Singapore, such as CompuServe Inc.
``It's not clear to us either,'' said CompuServe spokesman Russ Robinson at the company's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. The company discovered in Germany that geographic restrictions are difficult to enforce.
``The Internet interprets blockage as a failure and routes data around it,'' Robinson said. ``Any sophisticated user of a PC can figure out how to get to around.''
CompuServe puts more emphasis on features in its software that allow parents to control what information children can see.
But Singapore wants to block adult access to information as well. The city-state has some of the world's strictest rules against sexually-oriented material and bans political and social activities that its leaders say would undermine public order.
For instance, Jehovah's Witnesses have been banned for rejecting military service and oaths of national loyalty, which Singapore leaders say violates draft laws and hurts national unity.