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Online Criminal Harms Act: Directions and Impact on Online Threats

Singapore is set to enforce the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) starting from February 1. This act aims to address the evolving landscape of criminal activities online and includes special provisions to tackle scams and malicious cyber activities.

The implementation of OCHA represents Singapore’s commitment to safeguarding its citizens from online threats and ensuring a secure digital environment. In this article, Pacific Prime will break down how OCHA can effectively combat scams and cyber crimes and its consequent impacts.

Background of OCHA Implementation

The OCHA was passed in Parliament on July 5, 2023, as a response to the increasing prevalence of online criminal activities. The act provides the government with the power to issue directions and orders to combat these offenses, with a particular focus on scams and malicious cyber activities.

What is OCHA?

Under OCHA, the government is empowered to issue directions and orders to restrict and limit the exposure of Singapore users to criminal activities on online platforms.

The act covers a wide range of offenses, including those related to:

  • Terrorism
  • Racial and religious harmony
  • Drugs
  • Violence
  • Scams

The act’s provisions specifically target scams and cyber crimes, allowing for proactive measures to disrupt potential offenses.

Rising Scam Cases

The need for stricter measures against scams is evident by the increasing number of cases reported. In the first half of 2023, Singapore witnessed 22,339 scam cases, a significant rise compared to the same period in the previous year.

These scams have resulted in substantial financial losses, with victims in Singapore losing approximately $2 billion between January 2020 and June 2023.

Operation Directions under OCHA

From communication intervention to access restriction, there are a total of five directions that will be issued against scam websites and egregious online activities. These include:

Stop Communication Direction: Requires the recipient, whether an individual or entity, to cease communication of specified online content to people in Singapore.

Disabling Direction: Requires online service providers to disable specified content, such as a post or a page, from being viewed in Singapore.

Account Restriction Direction: Requires online service providers to restrict an account on their platform from communicating in Singapore or interacting with people in Singapore.

Access Blocking Direction: Requires Internet service providers to block access to specific online locations, such as web domains, from being viewed in Singapore.

App Removal Direction: Requires app stores to remove an app from their Singapore store, preventing further downloads by people in Singapore.

Non-Compliance and OCHA Orders

In the event of non-compliance with the directions issued under OCHA, the government has the authority to issue OCHA orders that restrict access to the service or a specific portion of it. The purpose of these orders is to minimize individuals’ exposure to criminal activities in Singapore.

OCHA orders work in conjunction with other available measures for non-compliance and do not substitute legal prosecution for addressing offenses.

Appeal Process and Oversight

Individuals or entities receiving an OCHA direction can appeal to a designated officer for reconsideration. In the case of an OCHA order, the recipient can appeal to the competent authority.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, the appellant can further appeal to a reviewing tribunal comprising a district judge or magistrate appointed by the President on the advice of the Cabinet.

OCHA’s Impacts-to-see

From facilitating information gathering for criminal investigations to strengthening partnerships with online service providers, OCHA increases the Singapore government’s ability to tackle online criminal activities in the long run.

International Reach and Information Gathering

OCHA extends its reach to entities based overseas and information stored outside of Singapore. The act enables police officers and enforcement officers to request relevant information from online service providers or owners of online locations to facilitate investigations and criminal proceedings.

This provision strengthens Singapore’s ability to combat cross-border cybercrimes and hold offenders accountable.

Strengthening Partnerships and Future Measures

The government plans to introduce codes of practice and directives to enhance partnerships with online service providers. These measures aim to effectively counter scams and malicious cyber activities.

While these partnerships will be established at a later date, they will play a crucial role in creating a safer digital environment in Singapore in the long run.

OCHA: A Wrap-up

OCHA takes on a multi-directional approach and addresses rising online criminal activities such as online threats and scams in Singapore, aiming to create a crime-free online environment for all citizens.

The introduction of the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) in Singapore represents a noteworthy advancement in the fight against scams and cyber crimes. With specific provisions aimed at combating these offenses, OCHA grants the government the authority to issue directions and orders to curtail criminal activities on the Internet.

Through proactive measures to tackle evolving online threats, Singapore seeks to safeguard its citizens and uphold a secure digital environment for everyone.

Pacific Prime CXA continues to provide you with the most updated information regarding controversial and concerning topics in the Lion City.

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Eric is an experienced content writer specializing in writing creative copies of marketing materials including social media posts, advertisements, landing pages, and video scripts.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Eric was exposed to a new world of insurance. Having learned about insurance products extensively, he has taken joy and satisfaction in helping individuals and businesses manage risks and protect themselves against financial loss through the power of words.

Although born and raised in Hong Kong, he spent a quarter of his life living and studying in the UK. He believes his multicultural experience is a great asset in understanding the needs and wants of expats and globe-trotters.

Eric’s strengths lie in his strong research, analytical, and communication skills, obtained through his BA in Linguistics from the University of York and MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Bristol.

Outside of work, he enjoys some me-time gaming and reading on his own, occasionally going absolutely mental on a night out with friends.
Eric Chung