Oral Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on Measures to Tackle Telegram Channels Selling Nonconsensual and Illegally Obtained Sexually Explicit Materials

Published: 22 November 2023


Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what are the current measures in place to tackle the rising number of Telegram channels selling nonconsensual and illegally obtained sexually explicit materials, especially after the previous occurrence of the Telegram chat group SG Nasi Lemak; (b) what is the Government's assessment of our enforcement system’s current ability to tackle and deter such crimes in a timely way; and (c) what more can be done in working with online platforms to prevent such reoccurrences.


Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development:

1. We have laws against the sale or distribution of non-consensual and illegally obtained sexually explicit materials. The Police take a very serious view of such offences, and have taken firm action against the perpetrators in cases which had come to their attention.

2. To deal with the online dissemination of such harmful content, we have updated our laws, such as with the introduction of the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) in 2023. When the OCHA is operationalised progressively from the first quarter of 2024, the Police can issue a Disabling Direction to online platforms such as Telegram, to prevent such materials on the platform from being accessed by Singapore users.

3. Non-compliance by the online platform with these Directions will be an offence. In these instances, the OCHA Competent Authority can also issue an Access Blocking Order, App Removal Order or Service Restriction Order to the internet service providers or app stores, to restrict access to the online service provided by the platform, or part of the online service, to prevent the criminal activity and content from being accessed by persons in Singapore.

4. Online platforms also have a responsibility to proactively curb the spread of harmful online content and to ensure that their services are safe for their users. Under the Broadcasting Act, the IMDA issued the Code of Practice for Online Safety which took effect on 18 July 2023. The Code of Practice requires designated social media services with significant reach or impact to put in place systems and processes to minimise exposure to harmful content for users in Singapore. The six designated services are Facebook, HardwareZone, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube. Singapore users can report harmful content to the designated services for appropriate actions to be taken. The IMDA will periodically review the need to designate other social media services with significant reach and impact as necessary, including Telegram.

5. The effectiveness of our enforcement system depends on the responsiveness of the online services. To date, Telegram has not responded to Police’s requests to remove access to accounts disseminating sexually explicit materials. However, there has recently been some progress in our engagement with Telegram. We will continue to work with them, and other online platforms, to better protect Singapore users from harmful content.

6. Thank you.