The Online Criminal Harms Bill was introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for its first reading in Parliament on May 8.
The bill proposes to introduce levers to enable the authorities to deal more effectively with online criminal activities.
This includes scams, drug sales, unlawful gambling, the dissemination of voyeuristic images.
The bill is the next piece of Singapore’s suite of legislation, including the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, and the recently amended Broadcasting Act, to protect the public in Singapore from various harms in the online space.
Proliferation of scams and malicious cyber activities
MHA noted that scams and malicious cyber activities have proliferated in recent years.
Last year, 33, 669 scams and cybercrime cases were reported in Singapore, a 25.2 per cent increase from 2021, and more than S$660 million was lost to scams.
Bill will allow government to issue directions pertaining to online crimes
The bill will allow the government to issue directions to any online service provider through which criminal activities could be conducted.
Apart from the aforementioned criminal activities, other crimes covered by the bill include terrorism-related offences, incitement of violence, disrupting harmony between different races, religion or social classes, and breaking the secrecy of government information under laws such as the Official Secrets Act.
MHA added that government directions may be issued when there is reasonable suspicion that a website, online account or activity may be used for scams or malicious cyber deeds.
These directions include:
The recipient of this direction is required to stop communicating specified online content, and anything that might be substantially similar, to people in Singapore.
The recipient can either be a person or an entity.
This direction requires online service providers to disable specified content, such as a post or page, so that people in Singapore can no longer access such content. The direction can also extend to identical copies of said content.
Account restriction direction
Under this direction, online service providers are required to stop an account on their service from communicating in Singapore or interacting with people in Singapore, or both.
Access blocking direction
This requires internet service providers to block access to an online location, such as a web domain, from the view of people in Singapore.
App removal direction
This requires app stores to remove an app from its Singapore storefront to stop further downloads of the app by the people in Singapore.
Government will also work more closely online services
The bill will also create a framework to strengthen the government’s partnership with online services to counter malicious cyber activities.
Under this framework, the government can require designated online services to proactively disrupt scams and other online criminal activities affecting people in Singapore.
This framework will be set out in the form of a Codes of Practices and will be administered by an officer from the Singapore Police Force (SPF). The officer will be “designated as the Competent Authority”.
This Code of Practices, which may be different depending on the nature of the online service, may require the designated online services to have systems, processes and measures in place to support the government’s enforcement and prevention actions.
In addition, should there be a persistent risk of scams or malicious cyber activities on the designated online service, despite the Code of Practices, the police officer may issue a directive to the service to reduce these risks.
Bill also includes an appeal mechanism
The bill will also include an appeal mechanism.
Recipients of a government direction or originators of the online activity targeted by the direction can appeal to a reviewing tribunal to vary or cancel the direction.
The tribunal will comprise a district judge or magistrate appointed by the President, on the advice of the Cabinet.
The designated online services can also appeal to the Home Affairs Minister against decisions by the Competent Authority relating to the Codes of Practice and Directives.
Top image by Pickawood via Unsplash