Data as a key digital asset

Singapore: Content Regulation - Harmful Online Content

Latest Developments

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) issued the Code of Practice for Online Safety (Online Safety Code), which took effect on 18 July 2023.

The Online Safety Code requires designated social media services to implement measures enhancing online user safety, particularly for children, and to curb the spread of harmful content on their platforms.

The Online Safety Code is issued under Part 10A of the Broadcasting Act 1994 (Online Safety Law), which was introduced to regulate egregious content on online communication services with effect from 1 February 2023.


The Online Safety Code applies to social media services designated by IMDA (SMSs) on the basis that they have significant reach or impact in Singapore. The current list of SMSs includes:

  • Facebook;
  • HardwareZone;
  • Instagram;
  • TikTok;
  • X (formerly Twitter); and
  • YouTube.

The Online Safety Code regulates harmful content on SMSs including:

  • Sexual content;
  • Violent content;
  • Suicide and self-harm content;
  • Cyberbullying content;
  • Content endangering public health; and
  • Content facilitating vice and organised crime.

SMSs are subject to three categories of obligations under the Online Safety Code, namely (1) user safety; (2) user reporting and resolution; and (3) accountability, including:

1. User Safety. SMSs are required to minimise end-users’ exposure to harmful content by implementing community guidelines, standards and content moderation measures, empowering end-users with tools to manage their own safety and exposure to such content, and proactively detecting and removing child sexual exploitation and abuse material and terrorism content. SMSs must also ensure that children are not targeted to receive content which may be detrimental to their well-being, that children are provided with differentiated accounts with default settings set to minimise exposure to and mitigate the impact of harmful and/or inappropriate content and unwanted interactions, and that children are provided with information related to online safety;

2. User Reporting and Resolution. SMSs must provide individuals with an effective, transparent, easy to access, and easy to use mechanism to report concerning content or unwanted interactions. SMSs must also take appropriate action to address and resolve these concerns; and

3. Accountability. SMSs must provide end-users with access to clear, easily comprehensible information to enable end-users to judge the level of safety and safety measures afforded by the SMS. SMSs must also submit to IMDA annual online safety reports detailing their online safety measures for Singapore end-users, for publication on IMDA’s website.

Failure to comply with the Online Safety Code may result in a fine of up to SGD 1 million (approximately USD 750,000 or EUR 700,000).

Under the Online Safety Law which currently applies to all social media services, IMDA is empowered to order social media services to prevent access to egregious content by Singapore end-users.

“Egregious content” includes content that advocates or provide instructions on suicide or self-harm, physical or sexual violence, and terrorism, as well as matters that cause racial and religious disharmony in Singapore. If such content is used in a positive way or is educational in nature, such as being mentioned on online forums for users to share personal experiences to help others in overcoming it, it will not be considered harmful or egregious.

The Online Safety Law applies to online communications services. Currently, the only online communications services specified are social media services. However, this definition may be expanded to include other online communication services in future.

Online communication services must prevent Singapore users from accessing egregious content where directed to do so by IMDA. A failure to comply with IMDA's direction is an offence and may result in a fine of up to SGD 1 million (approximately USD 750,000 or EUR 700,000). IMDA may also require Internet access service providers to block local access to non-compliant platforms. 

How could it be relevant for you?

Social media platforms are required to stop access to egregious content if directed by IMDA.

Social media platforms designated by IMDA for the purposes of the Online Safety Code must meet additional detailed requirements in relation to (1) user safety; (2) user reporting and resolution; and (3) accountability.

Social media platforms that have not been designated by IMDA for the purposes of the Online Safety Code, but that have significant reach or impact in Singapore, may be designated in future and required to comply with the Online Safety Code.

Next steps

As the Online Safety Code recently came into effect, it remains to be seen how IMDA intends to supervise compliance, apart from via the annual online safety reports that SMSs are required to submit.

*Information is accurate up to 27 November 2023

Data as a key digital asset - Explore further sections

Explore other chapters in the guide

Data as a key digital asset

Crypto assets

AI as a digital asset

Privacy & Data Protection


Digital Identity and Trust Services