S'pore sets rules for online "election advertising"

The Singapore authorities are setting down new rules for political campaigning, which reach into cyberspace.
Written by Susan Tsang, Contributor
SINGAPORE--The authorities are setting down new rules for political campaigning, which reach into cyberspace.

The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment No 2) Bill was put before Parliament yesterday, for debate during its next sitting. If passed, it will become an offense for anyone to publish "election advertising" without identifying the printer, publisher, or the person for whom the advertising is being done.

This applies both to the print media and to any Web sites that host debates about local political issues, including those associated with political parties, candidates or other groups.

Election advertising is defined as any content that "can reasonably be regarded" as attempting to gain electoral success for any candidate or political party, or which seeks to increase their status or position.

The publication of opinion polls between the issue of writ of election and polling day is also forbidden under the bill, as is the publication of exit polls before the election results are declared.

According to a report in The Straits Times, anyone who violates the rules could face S$1,000 (US$551) in fines and a year's jail.

Earlier this month, Sintercom.org, a Web site that hosts forums on local issues, was asked to register with the Singapore Broadcasting Authority as a political site.

The regulatory body later released a statement saying "it does not pre-censor content" of political sites, but that "content providers who engage in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore on World Wide Web through the Internet are required to be registered with SBA" for purposes of accountability.

"The objective of registering political Web sites is to ensure that those who run sites engaging in the discussion of domestic politics are accountable and take responsibility for the content of their sites."

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