S'pore to block British political Web sites

The Singapore government is planning to block all foreign Web sites that refuse to register in the Republic.

LONDON--British political Web sites that refuse to register in Singapore will be blocked in the same way that pornographic sites are filtered out, the Singapore government has warned.

The law will apply to all foreign Web sites, and is likely to finalize a recent amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act, which makes concessions for a limited form of political campaigning in cyberspace. Under the new regulation, the Singapore government will prevent its citizens from accessing overseas Web sites that refuse to register in Singapore as political sites.

But countries that host their sites outside of Singapore territory will escape the country's jurisdiction laws, making it difficult for the Singapore government to prosecute overseas. "It's a question of enforcement--you can pass whatever laws you like in one country, but a person will need to set foot in that country in order to be held under its laws," said Robin Bynoe, partner at city law firm Charles Russell. "It would be very difficult to get a foreign court to enforce this regulation--I think [the Singapore government] would be laughed at in court."

The Singapore government is more hopeful about being able to go after Singapore citizens hosting foreign Web sites. "Whatever law they pass will always be binding on Singapore citizens--whatever a citizen does outside of Singapore will still come under Singapore law," said Bynoe.

Singaporean operators could be fined up to US$20,000 (£13,800) and face two years in jail for refusing to register.

Political campaigning over the Internet has been a subject of increasing controversy in Singapore. Last month the Information and Arts Minister Lee Yock Suan warned of further restrictions on political Web sites--in particular political and satirical Web sites based abroad. The rules on mass email sent by private citizens canvassing for individual political parties are also due to be finalised shortly.

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