Singapore

Disrupting essential call centre ops is illegal, warn authorities

The authorities will not hesitate to take action against people who disrupt essential call centre operations or encourage others to do so. This includes those who call the National Care Hotline and other government phone lines "with the intention of overwhelming and disrupting" such operations.

"The incitement and carrying out of actions that aim to disrupt any essential call centre operations is illegal," said the ministries of Health and Social and Family Development on Sunday, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

"We take this matter very seriously and will not hesitate to work with the police and enforcement agencies to take action where necessary."

Last week, several chat groups and channels on messaging app Telegram had called on members to "flood" government phone lines - including both ministries' hotlines - under the guise of giving feedback on the latest measures that bar unvaccinated people from entering malls and other public spaces.

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"Get people to demand this gets pushed up to the call centre manager. And ask for them to revert back," the message said. "Otherwise call again tmr (tomorrow) and ask for any feedback."

These chat groups and channels are public, meaning that anyone can join them or view their messages.

Checks by The Straits Times found that the message was sent to at least one group with nearly 3,000 members, and subsequently posted in the group founder's personal channel. These messages had not been taken down as at yesterday, although in one instance the word "flood" was changed to "call".

In their joint statement, the ministries said the hotlines are important channels for Singaporeans in need to seek timely help. They urged everyone to exercise social responsibility and not deny genuine callers the opportunity to seek help.

The Health Ministry saw a surge in calls to its hotline last month, as people on the home recovery programme dialled in to ask for help relating to their specific circumstances. This resulted in complaints after some people were not able to reach a phone operator.

"With the already high call volumes... such spamming will lengthen waiting times and frustrate genuine callers and may, in some cases, keep some Singaporeans from receiving critical assistance," the ministries said.

coronavirus