SINGAPORE--The government has banned pro-adultery website Ashley Madison because it "aggressively" evangelizes extramartial affairs and this is against the country's public interest.
In a statement released late-Friday, content regulator Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) said it could not allow a website to operate in "flagrant disregard" of Singapore's "family values and public morality", and had requested local Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the site.
Ashley Madison is a Canada-based online dating website and social media platform which aims to aid "married dating, discreet encounters and extramarital affairs", and touts a slogan that reads: "Life is short. Have an affair." It has over 16 million members from countries including Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. On its Facebook page, the company said its "leading infidelity service" was seeing "record numbers" of signups worldwide.
It unveiled plans to launch a Singapore version this month through the "ashleymadison.sg" domain, asking for interested users to register with their e-mail addresses. Access to the URL was eventually blocked on late-Friday evening, but remains accessible via VPN.
Asked how it was monitoring the site should it change its name to "Amberly Madison", for instance, to deflect detection, MDA told ZDNet the Singapore government realized site-blocking was not a perfect way of blocking access to prohibited content as this--such as changing the name of the website--could be circumvented. It also would not be practical to block every single website offering such content, it added.
"However, it serves as a symbolic statement of the types of content which the community is opposed to." For these reasons, the authority said it had taken to blocking "a limited number of sites" as a "symbolic statement" to indicate the types of content the Singapore community was opposed to.
According to the country's Internet Code of Practice, content are deemed objectionable on the grounds of "public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws". Traditionally, blocked sites contained content such as pornography, sedition, and violence. In 2012, for instance, the regulator blocked access to a YouTube video for featuring anti-Muslim content which it said incited "religious hatred, strife or intolerance".
"The Ashley Madison website stands out [because] it aggressively promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs, and has declared it will specifically target Singaporeans," MDA said, noting that the site's founder reportedly said he would fly into Singapore to launch the local site on November 17.
A cabinet minister as well as pockets of the public had voiced their displeasure following reports the site was planning to launch a local version. A Facebook page to "Block Ashley Madison" garnered over 27,000 Likes since it launched on October 23, while Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing posted on his Facebook page that he did not welcome such websites in Singapore.
Last month, the Singapore government said it was mulling over plans to block websites that offer pirated content including movies and music. MDA told ZDNet no decision had been made on this yet.