The Canadian-owned site, which promotes itself with the tagline “Life is short, have an affair,” was established by Avid Life Media in 2001. It operates in 30 countries worldwide including three in Asia and sought to open in Singapore from early 2014.
“It was very clear that they want to set up shop here and promote things which we think run counter to our values,” said communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim
The ban reinforces the city-state’s reputation as an interventionist regulator of the internet. And it increases the chances of a threatened citizens’ revolt.
“It is against the public interest to allow Ashley Madison to promote its website in flagrant disregard of our family values and public morality. We will therefore not allow Ashley Madison to operate in Singapore and have worked with the Internet Service Providers to block access to the site,” the MDA said in a statement.
The MDA said that operates a pragmatic and light touch approach to internet regulation.
“The Ashley Madison website .. stands out. It aggressively promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs and has declared that it will specifically target Singaporeans,” the MDA said.
But Singapore’s proactive regulation risks a reaction.
In late October a threatening call to action video was posted on YouTube, apparently by the hackers’ group Anonymous.
“We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you,” a male voice said. “Every time you deprive a citizen his right to information, we will cause you financial loss by aggressive cyber intrusion,” said the speaker.
Particularly targeted was Singapore’s recent decision to require licenses for any news website with more than 50,000 unique visitors per month. Some 12 local sites and Yahoo! Singapore were told that they need to put up a cash bond and be prepared to quickly take down any stories that the government deemed objectionable.
The licensing decision at the end of June sparked rare street protests with some 1,000 – 2,000 people on the street.