25 August 2023

On 17 July 2023, the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (“IMDA”) issued the Code of Practice for Online Safety (“Online Safety Code”), which took effect from 18 July 2023. The Online Safety Code mitigates the risks from harmful social media content to Singapore users, especially children, by requiring designated social media services (“SMSs”) to enhance online safety in Singapore and curb the spread of harmful content on their services.

Designation of Social Media Services to comply with Online Safety Code

The Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2022, which took effect on
1 February 2023, introduced a new Part 10A to the Broadcasting Act 1994 empowering IMDA to designate SMSs with significant reach or impact in Singapore to comply with Codes of Practice such as the Online Safety Code.
For more information about the Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2022, please read our article titled “Legislation to tackle harmful content on online services accessible to users in Singapore in force”.

Key requirements of the Online Safety Code

The Online Safety Code covers the following categories of harmful content:

  • Sexual content
  • Violent content
  • Suicide and self-harm content
  • Cyberbullying content
  • Content endangering public health
  • Content facilitating vice and organised crime

Designated SMSs have to meet the following requirements:

  • Minimise Singapore users’ exposure to harmful content, with additional protection for children, including:
    • Putting in place systems and processes to tackle harmful content, including community guidelines and effective content moderation measures.
    • Empowering users with tools to manage their own safety, such as tools to hide harmful content and unwanted interactions, limit location sharing, and manage the visibility of their accounts from other users.
    • Applying age-appropriate policies to accounts belonging to children, including having a set of community guidelines appropriate for children, content moderation, and online safety information that children can easily understand. Accounts belonging to children must not receive advertisements, promoted content and content recommendations that designated SMSs are reasonably aware to be detrimental to children’s physical or mental well-being.
    • Putting in place tools for parents/guardians to manage their children’s safety, such as tools to manage the content that their children view, the public visibility of their accounts, parties who can contact and interact with them, and location sharing.
  • Provide Singapore users with effective and easy-to-use reporting mechanisms to report harmful content or unwanted interactions. Designated SMSs must take appropriate action on these user reports in a timely and diligent manner and inform users of any action taken in response to their reports.
  • Publish annual online safety reports to help users make informed choices as to which designated SMS is best placed to provide a safe user experience. The first annual safety reports are required to be submitted in the second half of 2024 and will be published on the IMDA website. These annual online safety reports will provide information about measures designated SMSs have put in place to combat harmful content and how Singapore users’ experience on the services has been.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the IMDA website www.imda.gov.sg: