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The Online Citizen complies with IMDA directive by taking down website, social media pages

SINGAPORE — Sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) has complied with directives by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) by taking down its website and social media pages on Thursday morning (Sept 16), ahead of the 3pm deadline.

The Online Citizen complies with IMDA directive by taking down website, social media pages

The owners of The Online Citizen sociopolitical website took down the site and associated social media pages on Sept 16, 2021.

SINGAPORE — Sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) has complied with directives by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) by taking down its website and social media pages on Thursday morning (Sept 16), ahead of the 3pm deadline.

IMDA had on Tuesday set the deadline after suspending TOC’s class licence for its failure to declare its funding sources.

Responding to queries from TODAY, TOC chief editor Terry Xu said that the firm is considering its legal options against the directive.

The website was taken down at 9.08am, Mr Xu said, with “deliberate” timing, because it is a reference to Singapore’s National Day on Aug 9.

“The social media platforms are disabled so as to ensure IMDA doesn't make an issue of the matter even though TOC does not agree that the social media platforms are part of the class licence.” 

Mr Xu added that TOC is considering its legal options against IMDA's order to suspend its operation of its social media platforms “as they are not part of the declaration that it signed with IMDA”.

He said that in two press releases issued by IMDA in 2014, it had stated that registration under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification was for “the purpose of the website and there had been no mention of the social media platforms”.

“Furthermore, there are no entities or individuals in Singapore who have been required to register their social media platforms with IMDA.” 

He added that although IMDA controls the licence of broadcasting services in Singapore, it does not control “the rest of the world”.

So IMDA “cannot reasonably expect TOC to cease all its operations outside of Singapore just because it has suspended the class licence that it granted for the purpose of operation in Singapore”.

IMDA said earlier that it had repeatedly asked TOC to clarify various elements of its subscription framework, which it had failed to do.

These include an element that allowed people to request that specific articles be written if they provided “subscription funding”, without having to disclose their identity.

This was cause for concern for the authority because it could be an avenue for foreign influence and it highlighted this as a possible loophole that TOC had been exploiting through its paid subscription model.

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening, Mr Xu said that IMDA had “fail(ed) to highlight to the general public that after the exchange with TOC in 2019, the offer of this subscription tier has been removed by TOC”.

The exchange in 2019 referred to when IMDA had asked TOC to justify its subscription fees, among other matters.

He added in the post: “For the sake of clarity, TOC has never received foreign funding and will continue this practice in the future.”

TODAY has sought comment from IMDA on Mr Xu’s claims.

Related topics

The Online Citizen foreign interference IMDA funding internet social media

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