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Singaporean 'net rules rile giants

Voices raised against Website licensing

Barbed wire surrounding communications tower

Facebook, Salesforce, Google, eBay and Yahoo! have put their voices together to criticise Singapore's proposed Internet news and blogging rules.

The all-but-authoritarian city-state has been ruled by a single party for fifty years and its largest local businesses maintain close ties to government and the military, which has probably helped Singapore build its “business-friendly” reputation.

Lobby group the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which lists US companies as its most prominent members, are now warning that Singapore's new rules put that reputation at risk.

The group has written (PDF) to the country's Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim saying the rules “could unintentionally hamper Singapore’s ability to continue to drive innovation, develop key industries in the technology space and attract investment”.

The country's Media Development Authority has listed ten Website that will need to be licensed to continue reporting on Singapore. Yahoo! is the only AIC member on the list: the others are AsiaOne.com, BusinessTimes.com.sg, ChannelNewsAsia.com, Omy.sg, Stomp.com.sg, StraitsTimes.com, TNP.sg, TodayOnline.com, and Zaobao.com.

These sites triggered the twin criteria of reporting one or more articles about Singapore each week, and were visited by 50,000 unique IPs in Singapore each month. To obtain a license, these operators would need to put up a $S50,000 “performance bond” and agree to pull “objectionable” stories within 24 hours.

As Reuters notes, blogs and social media are widely attributed with helping Singapore's opposition parties to make gains against the ruling People's Action Party. ®

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