SINGAPORE, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Facebook and other social media sites have restricted access to a satirical rap video in Singapore after the wealthy city-state’s government requested the removal of content it said could fan racial tension.
The expletive-laced video by an ethnic Indian comedy duo was made in response to an advertisement in which a Chinese actor portrayed different races by darkening his skin and wearing a hijab, the headdress worn by devout Muslim women.
The saga has reignited debate about racial attitudes in the Chinese-majority country, and about its government’s ability to restrict content, with a controversial new fake news law set to take effect.
“We may have to restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our community standards,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to a question from Reuters.
Reuters could not access copies of the video on Facebook that had previously been available.
A copy of the video on Youtube that had garnered more than 40,000 views carried an advisory reading, “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government”.
A separate notice on Twitter said content had been withheld in Singapore in response to a legal demand. Alphabet’s Google , the owner of Youtube, and Twitter declined comment.
The video was designed to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans, law and home minister K Shanmugam said this week, adding that the police were investigating the duo and the government had asked Facebook to remove the content.
Media regulator IMDA said the video publishers had agreed to take down the original video and it was working to remove others being re-shared online.
“IMDA has issued notices to the individuals and internet platforms for their cooperation to remove the videos,” it said in a statement.
The government response has sparked accusations of double standards by some online users who said similar action was not taken against those behind the ad, who had apologised for any offence caused and removed it.
Ethnic Chinese make up 76% of Singapore’s domestic population, while Malays and Indians make up 15% and 8% respectively.
Rights groups have long criticised Singapore over freedom of speech concerns, intensified after it adopted a fake news law to require media platforms to carry corrections or remove content the government considers false.
Social media sites such as Facebook have also previously voiced concerns about the measure, which has yet to take effect, citing freedom of speech concerns. (Reporting by Fathin Ungku and John Geddie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)