MHA partners online platforms to remove crime-related content within 24 hours, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

MHA partners online platforms to remove crime-related content within 24 hours

If online platforms do not remove content allegedly used for criminal activities within a stipulated timeline after being told by the authorities to do so, they would have committed an offence.

On Feb 27, Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said in Parliament that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is working with online platforms to comply with such directions under the Online Criminal Harms Act (Ocha) within 24 hours.

This directive comes as scams cases here hit a record high in 2023 with 46,563 cases reported, up 46.8 per cent from the 31,728 cases in 2022.

The number of reported scam cases involving online platforms more than doubled from 2021 to 2023, said Ms Sun.

She was replying to a question by Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol) on what measures the police were taking to regulate the use of online apps, including chat groups and messaging platforms, for illegal activities like the sale of prohibited drugs.

While Ms Sun did not provide the number of scam cases involving online platforms in Parliament, the police said on Feb 18 in their annual scam figures that fraudsters contacted victims via social media in 13,725 cases in 2023 – up from 7,539 cases in 2022.

The numbers were similar for messaging platforms – 12,368 in 2023, up from 7,599 in 2022.

Ms Sun said on Feb 27 that MHA has been working with the Ministry of Communications and Information and other enforcement agencies to tackle illegal online activities.

She highlighted Ocha, which allows the Government to order the takedown of websites, apps and online accounts suspected to be used for criminal activities. Ocha took effect from Feb 1, 2024.

The threshold is lower for scams and malicious cyber activities, allowing directions to be issued even if there is only suspicion that certain online activities are in preparation for such offences.

MHA said earlier that this is to disrupt such offences even before the public falls prey to them.

Ms Sun said in Parliament: “Ocha also allows us to issue codes of practice that require providers of designated online services to put in place systems, processes and measures to disrupt scams and malicious cyber activities.”

The codes of practice will be introduced in 2024, she added.

Under Ocha, the authorities can also issue a written notice requiring online service providers to provide information to assist in investigations or criminal proceedings.

Ms Sun added that failure to comply with a direction or written notice is an offence. She did not say how many Ocha directions have been issued so far.

On the illicit buying and selling of drugs online, Ms Sun said the number of suspected drug offenders who used Telegram to carry out drug transactions detected by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) decreased by 17 per cent from 2021 to 2023.

She added: “CNB continues to conduct operations against syndicates and people who use instant messaging services or other social media platforms to facilitate drug activities.

“CNB also works closely with service providers to detect and prevent advertising of controlled drugs on their services.”