AIMS, started in 2007, is a 13-member panel appointed by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) to study the impact of new media on Singapore.
The panel was tasked to:
- To study the far-reaching social, ethical, legal and regulatory implications of a rapidly-growing Interactive Digital Media sector (IDM); and
- To make recommendations to the Government on how these issues should be managed while keeping pace with the development of IDM in Singapore.
The report would interest those interested in how the new media scene in Singapore would develop (gee, this line sounds like a bad book review, LOL!)
The 105-page report has four main chapters: E-Engagement, Online Political Content, Protection of Minors, Intermediary Immunity for Online Defamation -- what the panel calls "time-sensitive issues".
From their Executive Summary (p.5-17), the main recommendations are:
- On E-Engagement: For the Singapore Government to reconsider its "cautious approach to engaging the public through new media" (p. 6) and to "push further ahead with e-engagement". The panel acknowledges there are risks if e-engagement is not properly thought through and implemented. They propose that the Government continue to invest in research and learn from countries which have started the process of e-engagement. Page 8 has a summary of some concrete steps on how to embark on e-engagement.
- On Online Political Content: To liberalise Section 33 of the Films Act that prohibits the making, distributing and exhibiting of party political films. The ideal situation would be to create "maximum space for political discourse, but be sensitive at the same time to the need to keep out harmful material online". The panel suggests these ways to liberalise the law -- One is to narrow the scope of the law; Two is to repeal Section 33 altogether; Three is a combination of One and Two and repeal the Films Act in phases.
- On Protection of Minors: The panel suggests that the longer term solution is to focus on education (on online dangers and safeguards) among the young and their parents. The current Family Access Network service provided by all ISPs [see editor's note at this page] should be made free to Singaporean households who wish to have it. More local research is needed to find solutions tailored to Singapore's context. Also, to collaborate with overseas counterparts to share research, ideas and resources on the universal issue of protecting minors. The panel also called for volunteers and community participation in the area of Cyber-safety. And to implement the above recommendations, AIMS also recommends an annual fund for the protection of minors and to a dedicated coordinating agency for the protection of minors. Finally, to lift the (symbolic) ban on 100 websites, once all the proposed measures are in place.
- On Intermediary Immunity for Online Defamation: For the law to give limited immunity for Internet content hosts and aggregators where civil and criminal liability for defamation are concerned, if those intermediaries have acted in good faith and implement "take down" actions of defamatory content.
I spent maybe 35 minutes going through the report. It's an easy to read report with some illuminating insights on how other countries are dealing with similar issues.
For example, page 18 (E-Engagement) briefly explains how a student Facebook campaign forced HSBC bank to re-think its move to scrap its interest-free overdraft facility for British students leaving university (BBC article here, as cited in the report).
Pages 19 to 23 talks about the trends in New Media, Web 2.0, Blogging as a significant development, the "mass democratisation of information", using new media as a public forum.
Pages 23 to 24, and 27 to 30 suggests why the Singapore government needs to engage online.
Chapter Two - Online Political Content - was useful to me in understanding the background and issues surrounding the Films Act, Internet election advertising and political broadcasts. There's a coverage of how Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Canada deal with online elections advertising.
It also mentions the Singapore government's Light Touch policy towards Internet regulation. On page 41, the report asks if current regulations are still relevant, citing instances from the 2008 Malaysian general election and the 2007 Australian elections.
On the start of the report, on page four, it says:
The Council is aware that these recommendations will not satisfy everyone. There is always room for improvement and areas to study more closely. The Internet is a never-ending worldwide conversation. We see the recommendations in this report as part of an ongoing conversation that started when the Internet became part of our lives. To aid us in our efforts, we welcome feedback from the public to help us improve on our recommendations.
At the AIMS website, there is a feedback form for public to submit comments.
They plan to launch a blog on 1 September 2008. [Update: the blog is at blog.aims.org.sg]
[Related - TODAYonline's article on the Protection of Minors recommendation].