Friday, 23 May 2008


Padlock. Credit: this rate, I'm going to sound obsessed by censorship but I'm only reacting to the news, and it segues nicely from the report a couple of days ago about the arrested blogger and his vindictive diatribe.

The new news is that Singapore's Media Development Agency (MDA) has just adjusted its banned website list. I knew the Government can monitor telephone calls (LI, or Legal Intercept) but I am fairly ignorant of any Internet controls and presumed all adult sites were illegal or blocked or both.

The ST article relates how the MDA has put 2 popular video sharing sites onto its list of 100 blocked sites because of uploading & sharing of adult-themed videos. These 2 sites are #19 and #33 on the current Singapore 100 most accessed sites ranking.

First question: what are the sites? The article was sensibly silent on this but the top 100 sites list is easy to find (they are the unimaginatively named YouPorn and RedTube). I've never heard of either of them but what's more interesting is that now that the MDA has added these 2 sites to their 100 blocked sites, they'll have to drop 2 sites already on the list.

Next question: what happens if you try to access a block site? According to another blogger, you get a blank web pages with:

The site you requested is not accessible.
For more information please check Media Development Authority.

The MDA doesn't publish the full list of banned sites but at least they are upfront about the block when you hit one. In England, BT introduced blocking of kiddie porn with project CleanFeed in 2004, and it's now mandatory for all UK ISPs.

So panic over; this is symbolic censorship, not the Great Firewall of China. The Government can validly claim to be blocking morally contentious web content, while the populace gets on with enjoying the other 100 million sites on the Internet. You can't dam the Yangtze with a pebble. Apparently, the block list only affects home Internet connections; offices and commercial connections are unrestricted.

By the way, the most popular sites in Singapore are:

  3. YouTube
  4. Windows Live
  5. Blogger
  6. Friendster
  8. MSN
  9. Facebook
  10. Wikipedia

Baidu, the Chinese search site is at #14, MySpace at #35. So US mainstream companies dominate, highlighting a surprising absence of big-hitting Asian web portals. Addressing this issue is the MDA's real day job as they try to establish Singapore as a regional New Media and gaming development hub.