Government has been restrained in directing websites to take down content: Yaacob

In the last two decades, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has told websites to take down content only 24 times - and all concerned religiously offensive or pornographic content.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim also said on Tuesday that there has been no instance when websites were asked to take down content critical of the Government or a Minister.

He said the MDA has been "restrained" in directing sites to take down content under the Class License scheme.

Since the scheme started in 1996, the MDA issued a take-down notice once for religiously-offensive content - for the Innocence of Muslims video last year. The other 23 instances were for pornographic content or online solicitations for sex and sex chats.

Dr Yaacob sought to make the point that his ministry would keep a "light touch" in regulating the Internet, in the wake of a strongly negative reaction from online quarters against a recently announced individual licensing scheme for news websites.

Under the new rules, sites which report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore news and current affairs over a period of two months, and reach at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over a period of two months, must apply for an individual licence.

The rules impose a 24-hour deadline for websites owners to take down offensive content and requires licensees to put up a $50,000 performance bond.

Dr Yaacob said that the Government's approach is that "people should be as accountable and responsible for their actions online as they are in the physical world. The degree of responsibility and accountability should be higher, the more significant the player."

"An even higher level of responsibility and accountability should be expected of sites that provide news," he said, adding that they provide information that people use to make decisions and more Singaporeans are now turning to such sites.