On 8 May 2023, the Online Criminal Harms Bill was introduced for First Reading in the Singapore Parliament (“OCH Bill”). If passed, the OCH Bill will give the Singapore government more powers to proactively deal with online criminal activities, scams and malicious cyber activities.
Some key features of the proposed law:
- Scope: The OCH Bill will apply to any individual or entity, whether or not resident or physically present in Singapore, or carrying on a business or operating in Singapore. These include persons or entities who communicate online content, online service providers, internet service providers and app stores.
- Issuance of Government Directions: The OCH Bill allows the Singapore government to issue directions (“Government Directions”) when there is reasonable suspicion that online activity is being carried out to commit a crime specified in the First Schedule of the OCH Bill, or when it is suspected that any website, account or online activity is being used for scams or malicious cyber activities.
- Types of Government Directions: The Government Directions that may be issued include: Stop Communication Directions to entities communicating offending content, Disabling Directions to online service providers to disable Singapore user access to specified content, Account Restriction Directions to online service providers to stop an online account from communicating or interacting with Singapore users, Access Blocking Directions to internet service providers to block Singapore user access to an online location, and App Removal Directions to app stores to stop further downloads of an app by Singapore users.
- Types of crimes covered: Government Directions may be issued when there is a reasonable suspicion that online activity is being carried out to commit criminal offences affecting national security, national harmony and individual safety. These include: offences relating to terrorism and internal security, harmony between different races, religion or classes, trafficking of controlled drugs and psychoactive substances, unlawful gambling, illegal moneylending, and sexual offences (e.g. distribution of child sexual abuse material or voyeuristic and intimate images without consent).
- Scams and malicious cyber activities: Government Directions may be issued when it is suspected that any website, online account, or online activity may be used for scams or malicious cyber activities (e.g. loan scams or phishing scams). A lower threshold applies for the issuance of Government Directions pertaining to this category of activities to allow the Singapore government to act more proactively before victims are targeted.
- Competent Authority: An officer from the Singapore Police Force will be designated as the Competent Authority responsible for administering the provisions under the OCH Bill.
- Codes of Practice: The OCH Bill will allow the Singapore government to issue Codes of Practice requiring designated online services to have systems, measures and processes in place for the purposes of: enabling partnerships with the Singapore government to proactively deal with scams and malicious cyber activities, preventing scams and malicious cyber activities, and supporting the Singapore government’s enforcement actions. If there continues to be a persistent risk of scams and malicious cyber activities on the online service, the Competent Authority may issue a Directive requiring the service to implement specific measures to reduce these risks.
Please get in touch if you wish to understand the practical implications of the OCH Bill to your business.