STEPS TO DEVELOP RESPONSES TO EXPECTED SPIKE IN CRIMES FROM INCREASED DIGITAL ACTIVITIES AND TRANSACTIONS IN METAVERSE

The frenetic pace upon which the world is adopting digital technology for work and leisure, in particular the metaverse, opens up even more opportunity for crime. The question that arises is what we need to do to keep pace of these developments so as to protect our people engaging in such digital activity. I therefore asked Minister for Home Affairs what his Ministry is doing in this area. The Minister, in his reply, stated, amongst others, that his Ministry, in collaboration with MCI will work closely with stakeholders and online service providers to enhance the safety of online spaces. In addition to strengthening the legislative framework coupled with robust enforcement, his Ministry will also focus on public education efforts. My PQ and the Minister’s answer may be accessed below.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs what steps are being considered to develop responses to the widely expected spike in the number of crimes as more Singaporean residents engage in digital activities and transactions in the metaverse and the dollar value of such activities and transactions increase.

Mr K Shanmugam: Many activities and transactions that take place in the metaverse would be covered by existing laws. For example, the Penal Code criminalises various forms of cheating and theft of digital assets; and the Computer Misuse Act criminalises unauthorised access or modification of computer material. These laws apply to activities conducted online, and certain offences will continue to apply even if the perpetrators are based overseas.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) monitors developments in the online space closely and have updated our laws where necessary. For instance, the Protection from Harassment Act was amended in 2019 to enhance protection for victims of online harassment, such as through the criminalisation of doxxing. MHA is currently studying the developments in the metaverse, and will take further steps as necessary to address novel harms.

Despite our best efforts to enhance our laws and enforcement capabilities, crimes in the online space will continue to be challenging to investigate and prosecute. Perpetrators may be situated overseas, and our efforts to solve these cases will depend on the cooperation of overseas law enforcement agencies. Perpetrators may also adopt anonymous personas, making it difficult to identify them.

Given these challenges, we cannot rely on enforcement alone. MHA and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders and online service providers to enhance the safety of online spaces. This will be complemented by public education efforts to inform users how they can participate in online activities safely and what they can do to protect themselves.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.