Singapore has criminalized the sending of unsolicited intimate images, or “cyber flashing,” as part of a major crackdown on sexual harassment online.
The city state’s parliament approved reforms to its criminal law on Monday, also including other new offenses for upskirt photography, and sharing or threatening to share sexual images, so-called “revenge porn.”
Anyone found guilty of “cyber flashing” could receive a custodial sentence of up to two years, while taking upskirt photos or videos is punishable by up to to two years in prison – five years if the images are shared online. Courts can also impose fines and canings for offenses, common punishments in Singapore.
“There has been prevalence of this. Persons intentionally send unsolicited pictures of their genitalia over social media or via messaging platforms. That will be criminalized. Penalties for that offense will be enhanced where the victim is below 14 years old,” said K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law in Parliament.
The changes are part of a sweeping reform of Singapore’s Penal Code. Lawmakers seeking to overhaul the code have also recently made recommendations to remove immunity for marital rape, and to decriminalize suicide.
‘Fake news’ law
The new law comes amid a general tightening of controls on the internet in Singapore. Parliament is currently debating a sweeping new law designed to crack down on so-called “fake news,” which could see Facebook and other social media companies hit with big fines if they don’t comply with censorship orders.
Individuals found guilty of contravening the act can face fines of up to Singapore 50,000 SGD ($36,000) and custodial sentences of up to five years. If the “fake news” is posted using “an inauthentic online account or controlled by a bot,” the total potential fine rises to Singapore 100,000 SGD and the maximum sentence to 10 years in prison.
Companies such as Facebook, if found guilty of spreading “fake news,” can face fines of up to 1 million SGD.
What exactly constitutes “a false statement of fact” is to be defined by the government, which can then choose to issue a demand for a correction, removal of the offending post, or to pursue legal action against the poster or social network.
It also follows a trend of other countries in Asia using concerns about disinformation online to allegedly crack down on speech.