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Singapore tightens web content rules

News sites now requiring a license include those that (i) report at least one article per week about Singapore - i.e. a site running any news, intelligence, report of occurrence, or any matter of public interest, about any social, economic, political, cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific or any other aspect of Singapore in any language – over two months, and (ii) having more than 50,000 unique visitors each month, over two months. Also required, along with the license, is a 'performance bond' of S$50,000 - small change to the big media players, but a sharp prohibitive for small websites and start up cloud providers.

According to Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) the move was aimed at applying a "consistent regulatory framework" to both traditional and online media. And, while it is possible to see the logic in such terms - regulatory consistency and a level playing field, particularly around content and creative development is a worthwhile objective – the Asia Cloud Computing Assocation (ACCA) believes that the regulator has leveled in the wrong direction: down instead of up.

In 2012, Singapore placed 4th overall for cloud computing readiness, but only equal 11th  with China for Freedom of Information Access (out of 14 Asian countries): Becoming a regional cloud computing 'hub' is a stated goal for Singapore's leaders and is seen to be increasingly intrinsic to the island state’s economic health and growth. And yet, both of the above rankings can be expected to take a negative hit on the basis of this latest regulatory development.

Media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, for example, this year ranks Singapore 149th  globally in its press freedom index, below such countries as Afghanistan and Indonesia. US-based Freedom House ranks it 153rd.

The introduction of this new licence requirement, announced suddenly last week and lacking transparency of process, merely adds to the uncertainty and unpredictability. The ACCA urges the MDA and Singapore's government to reconsider both the extent and the implementation of the new rules. The emerging cloud industry needs certainty and stability, in particular in relation to the rules surrounding the management and regulation of data.

This latest move threatens to undermine Singapore's position as a good place to do business, and its emerging strengths as a cloud computing and data development hub.

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