Parliament Sitting on 6 October 2020


16. Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song:
To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) how does the Ministry deal with content available through streaming services that deal with suicide, mental illness, and other sensitive topics; and (b) what measures are being taken to restrict access to material that may encourage harmful and dangerous behaviour among the young.


The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) administers the regulatory regime for broadcast media, including Over-The-Top (OTT) and Video-on-Demand (VOD) streaming services. OTT and VOD service providers are required to adhere to IMDA’s Content Code for these services, including rating all content on their services and presenting the rating prominently such that consumers are aware of the programme’s rating before deciding to view or purchase it. Under the Code, the programme’s theme and message are important considerations in its classification. Due to the potential impact on the young, programmes with mature themes such as suicide, depending on how it is depicted, are generally classified NC16, M18 or R21.

2. Service providers that offer content rated NC16 or higher must provide parental locks for such content. R21 content may only be offered if it is protected by a reliable age verification mechanism. All R21 content must be locked by default, and accessible only via an R21 Personal Identification Number (PIN). These measures ensure that content provided on streaming services protect the young from unsuitable content, while enabling adults to make informed viewing choices. Should IMDA receive feedback about content on streaming services, IMDA will review the content and, when necessary, engage service providers to rectify inappropriately-rated content.

3. More generally, IMDA also requires Internet Access Service Providers to offer Internet parental control services to its subscribers. Parents may subscribe to such services to manage their children’s access to websites and online services. 

4. Given the dynamic and borderless nature of the Internet, it is not possible to block every website with undesirable content. Regulation alone is not enough. There must also be public awareness and understanding of potential dangers in the online space. That is why the Government and the Media Literacy Council (MLC) have been promoting safe and responsible online behaviour to create a better internet. For example, the MLC’s 2020 Better Internet Campaign highlights the need to protect children from online harms and risks arising from the increased time spent online. The campaign also encourages online users to exercise judgment about the content that they come across online. We will continue to build on such efforts.

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