Singapore hints at changes in cybersecurity, media laws to keep pace with technology

Government says broadcast act will be updated this year to ensure streaming sites, such as Netflix, meet Singapore "standards" and cybersecurity bill will enable audits to be carried out.

Singapore says it will update laws governing films and broadcast content to ensure they keep pace with technology changes, which have produced streaming sites such as Netflix.

The government this year would make changes to the country's Films Act and Broadcasting Act, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim. The move was as part of efforts to ensure technological changes would not give access to content that undermined racial and religious harmony as well as national security.

In an interview with Malay daily Berita Harian, Yaacob said the definition of films had become unclear in recent years. "Anybody can be a filmmaker," he said. "Films can be distributed and transmitted via the internet. It's a totally different regime."

He said changes to local laws were necessary to ensure content ratings of streaming sites, such as Netflix, were in line with local practices.

"People don't watch movies in the theatres any more. They watch movies in their home, over the internet, through their TV," he noted. "How do we ensure the content meets our standards? Those are the things we have to look into."

Yaacob, however, admitted that it would be difficult to regulate content on some platforms such as YouTube.

New laws also for regulating cybersecurity

The minister also reiterated plans to enact a new cybersecurity act, slated to be unveiled this year, which he said would provide the government powers to audit business sectors and ensure organisations had implemented cyber defense systems. The new bill would detail what these powers would entail, for example, in a large-scale cyberattack, he added.

"Suppose there's an attack taking place, a big hack, or a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack in our power sector," Yaacob explained. "What are the powers...the minister has to ensure we can work together with the sector to face the challenge as quickly as possible?"

The government also would need to plug the manpower shortage in the ICT industry and help build up the necessary skillsets, he said, pointing to university and polytechnic graduates as well as professionals looking for a mid-career change.

Singapore would create 30,000 jobs in the sector by 2020, he noted, and would need to ensure there enough Singaporeans to fill these requirements.