Legislation in the works to better protect against online harassment

The Ministry of Law is preparing legislation to better protect against online harrassment that will be tabled by early next year, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Monday morning.-- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
The Ministry of Law is preparing legislation to better protect against online harrassment that will be tabled by early next year, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Monday morning.-- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

The Ministry of Law is preparing legislation to better protect against online harrassment that will be tabled by early next year, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Monday morning.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines at a conference on harassment, Mr Shanmugam said that the Law Ministry had been looking at the issue for about a year and a half and has been studying legislation in other countries and conducting internal discussions.

Mr Shanmugam cited a recent REACH survey which showed that the public found the the law inadequate in dealing with online harassment. Over 80 per cent of the more than 1,000 Singaporean residents surveyed felt that online harassment is a serious issue, and a similar number indicated they wanted tougher measures in place to deal with harassment, both online and offline.

He also cited a 2012 Microsoft survey that found that Singapore had the second highest rate of online bullying worldwide out of 25 countries surveyed among youths aged eight to 17. Together with China, which had the worst online bullying rates, Singapore was the only other country surveyed where online bullying was more pervasive than in the real world.

"I am concerned that our children seem to be the victims," he said. "If so many children are impacted, I think later on it will have a deep impact on society as they become adults. It is for us to try and step in and try and help them," he said.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that he preferred to have the law step in only as a a last resort, but that they were necessary to deal with the most egregious of cases, such as when the victim feels threatened or abused.

"In the end there will be, I don't know, 5 per cent, 8 per cent of society for whom these norms don't matter if they can get away with it. And that's really what the law is looking at," he said.