SIX MONTHS LATER

Ashley Madison ban stands

The founder of extramarital dating portal Ashley Madison, Canadian businessman Noel Biderman, has not given up on trying to get the ban on the Singapore edition of the website lifted - months after it was blocked by the authorities. -- PHOTO: SCREENG
The founder of extramarital dating portal Ashley Madison, Canadian businessman Noel Biderman, has not given up on trying to get the ban on the Singapore edition of the website lifted - months after it was blocked by the authorities. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ASHLEYMADISON.COM

The founder of extramarital dating portal Ashley Madison has not given up on trying to get the ban on the local edition of the website lifted - months after it was blocked by the authorities.

This even after the Media Development Authority (MDA) had earlier this month rebuffed the latest attempt by Canadian businessman Noel Biderman to negotiate a review of the ban.

His lawyers had sent a letter to the MDA on Feb 3 requesting a meeting, but the regulator replied on March 5, saying it intended to stand firm on its decision to block the site here.

An MDA spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said yesterday that the letter from Avid Life Media, which Mr Biderman heads, "discloses no basis in fact or law to merit any review of MDA's decision to block the Ashley Madison website".

"As such, we have declined their offer to meet on the matter," she added.

The Canada-based portal, known for its tagline "Life is short. Have an affair", apparently has 24 million users across 36 territories, including Hong Kong and Japan, according to a boilerplate on the website.

It first stirred controversy here last October, when it was revealed that a Singapore edition of the website had been planned.

This spurred a protest on Facebook. The page "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore" was set up and gathered more than 14,000 'likes' in three days. Itnow has more than 27,000 followers.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing also weighed in with a Facebook post, saying: "Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which are core to marriage."

The MDA eventually announced that it would block the site on Nov 8.

"It is against the public interest to allow Ashley Madison to promote its website in flagrant disregard of our family values and public morality," said the regulator then.

Mr Biderman, in an interview with The Straits Times on Saturday, maintained that the website is no different from other dating portals, adding that the ban is "anti-competitive". He added that banning the site does not eradicate infidelity, and pointed to similar sites that have not been blocked.

"I'm not running brothels. I'm not fostering prostitution or pornography," he said the 42-year old, who is married. "I'm here for the long haul. I'm in for the fight."

The ban is also "futile", he added.

According to him, 10,082 men and 8,884 women here have found ways to register with the site since it was blocked. The numbers, however, could not be independently verified by The Straits Times.

YEO SAM JO

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