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HomesingaporeTelegram platform unresponsive to Singapore police's requests to remove scam content: Shanmugam

Telegram platform unresponsive to Singapore police's requests to remove scam content: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE: The time taken for suspected online scam accounts and posts to be removed depends on how responsive social media and e-commerce platforms are to police requests, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Nov 6).

In a written reply to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Gerald Giam (Workers’ Party-Aljunied), Mr Shanmugam said more than 5,900 online accounts and advertisements involved in suspected scams have been flagged by police for removal since 2021.

Shopee would “usually take about one to two days to respond”, while Carousell and Facebook would “take longer, sometimes up to five days or even longer”.

“On the end of the spectrum, Telegram has not responded to police’s requests,” he added.

“Given the harms that can be caused by scam accounts and posts, it is imperative that they be taken down as fast as possible when flagged,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“We have been engaging the internet companies to improve their turnaround time, so that we can reduce the number of people who may fall prey to the scammers.”

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Mr Giam also asked when the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA), which was passed in parliament in July, will be operationalised.

When OCHA is “operationalised progressively” from the first quarter of 2024, the police will be able to direct online services to prevent suspected scam accounts or content from interacting with or reaching Singapore users, said Mr Shanmugam.

Even though OCHA is not yet operationalised, the six designated social media services under the Broadcasting Act – Facebook, Instagram, X, YouTube, TikTok and HardwareZone – are already required to establish systems and processes to minimise the exposure for users to harmful content, including scams.

“Singapore users are also able to report such content to the social media services for removal under their community guidelines and standards,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Related:

Parliament passes law targeting online content used for scams, malicious cyber activity

Police working with Meta to remove WhatsApp lines believed to be used in scams

More than S$330 million lost to scammers in first half of 2023; cases continue to rise

In a separate written response on Monday to MP Murali Pillai (People’s Action Party-Bukit Batok), Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said that once OCHA is in place, authorities will be able to restrict access to online services which don’t comply with directions to block criminal content like scam advertisements.

OCHA will also allow the government to require designated online services to put in place systems, processes and measures to proactively disrupt scams and malicious cyber activities affecting people in Singapore.

More than S$330 million (US$244 million) was lost to scammers in just the first half of 2023 in Singapore.

The police have recently issued advisories on fake WhatsApp Web websites and Android malware among others.

In September, about S$1.2 million was lost to scams of the latter nature, involving social media advertisements for travel packages.

The police also told CNA in October that they were working with social media company Meta to terminate WhatsApp lines believed to be used in scams.

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