Concerns around maintaining “racial and religious harmony” are deep seated, however. Singapore is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Early in its independence, in the 1960s, Singapore also experienced traumatic race riots and uncertainty from its geopolitical position, especially worries that any perceived mistreatment of Singapore’s minority Malay Muslim community (about 20 percent of the population) would give neighboring countries a pretext to take action against Singapore. These concerns continue to inform Singapore’s content regulations and can clearly be seen in the OSMAA’s definition of “egregious content”, which includes “content dealing with matters of race or religion in a way that is likely to cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill will or hostility against, or contempt for or ridicule of, different racial or religious groups in Singapore.”
In my experience, the use of digital platforms is well established in Singapore, and digital platforms have become an accepted fact of life for the majority of Singaporeans. Singapore is a highly connected society with some of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world. Singaporeans commonly use ridesharing and food delivery apps, especially given the high costs of private vehicles, which prevent may Singaporeans from owning cars. Social media use is common, and the messaging service WhatsApp has become the default mode of communication with businesses and service providers and among colleagues.
To the best of my knowledge, there are few major challenges to platform governance in Singapore. A possible issue going forward, however, may be a tech divide between large multinational companies and small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs). The government devotes significant resources to awareness- and capacity-building for local SMEs. It is unclear how successful these efforts have been.
Singapore has many features that make it unique internationally, but it has tried to present itself as a thought leader and model for policymaking and national development, especially in Asia and Africa. Singapore’s approach to platform regulation – which is largely hands-off outside of content regulation – may become an attractive model for other jurisdictions that share its priorities.