05 Nov 2019

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Safeguards Against Vice Activities Online, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Question:

Ms Rahayu Rahzam:
To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what are the safeguards put in place to ensure that Singaporeans, especially youths, are protected against vice activities being peddled online in Internet forums; (b) whether there are efforts to educate the public on such activities and on reporting communication channels that promote vice activities to the authorities; and (c) whether there are measures to limit access to known sites that are peddling vice activities. 

 

Answer:

 

The Government adopts a multi-pronged approach against online vice.

 

1. The Police and the Infocomm Media Development Authority regularly block vice websites targeting Singaporeans, as and when they are discovered. To date, 202 such websites have been blocked.

 

2. The Police also conduct regular enforcement operations to disrupt and deter vice activities, including those perpetuated through online platforms. For example, in November 2018, Police conducted a joint operation with China’s Ministry of Public Security against a transnational online vice syndicate. This led to the arrest of 201 persons in Singapore and China, and the shutting down of a website which advertised sexual services in Singapore. MHA takes a tough stance against vice, and in fact is proposing amendments to the Women’s Charter this month to further strengthen our levers against online vice syndicates.

 

3. The Police conduct extensive public communication efforts on vice activities and related arrests. Members of the public are encouraged to report any criminal or suspicious activities they see, such as the operation of online platforms that promote vice activities. They can call 1800-255-0000, submit the information via Police’s i-Witness, or lodge a report in person at a Police station.

 

4. More broadly, the Government has introduced a number of programmes to raise awareness of online harms and promote safe and responsible use of the Internet. For example, MOE’s Cyber Wellness Education Programme educates students on appropriate online behavior. These lessons sensitise students to potential negative influences they may encounter online, and teach students how to protect themselves. MCI has also been putting in efforts to strengthen digital literacy among Singaporeans. It launched the Digital Media and Information Literacy Framework in July 2019 to develop in Singaporeans a fundamental appreciation of the risks and benefits of technology, and cultivate a basic understanding of how to use technology safely and responsibly.

 

5. The community and parents also play a critical role. We are glad to see organisations, such as the Media Literacy Council (MLC), engaging in outreach efforts on safer Internet use. MLC has provided information for youths and parents on how to deal with inappropriate online content, such as pornography and sexting, and produced resources to teach youths ways to safeguard themselves against sexual grooming and sexual predators.

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