Singapore politician envisions internet kill switch that stops minors accessing unsuitable material

A hot potato: What’s an effective method of stopping minors from accessing online material unsuitable for young eyes—other than their parents monitoring them, of course? According to a Singaporean Minister, one answer is an internet kill switch combined with crowdsourced content grading.

Singapore Minister of Defense Dr. Ng Eng Hen made his tech wishes at the city-state’s 2021 Defense Technology Prize, reports The Register. Among them were buildings with integrated cleaning technology that can kill viruses and bacteria, the ability to work on classified material somewhere closer to home rather than in the main office, better remote teaching, improved verification for websites, and more transparency around those who post false information online.

One of the Minister’s more controversial hopes is for “real time guidance for minors who are very impressionable as they surf the net. Maybe even a warning alarm or kill switch.”

As for who decides on what is and what isn’t suitable material for kids, that would be crowdsourced online and in real-time, “like Wikipedia, for its accuracy,” said Eng Hen, who obviously doesn’t use Wikipedia very much.

“So you read about the recent example. Someone radicalized on the net, bought weapons on the net, all by himself. If you have a tool where you have a ‘blinking light’ that this is in-force and if he is searching for a tool for weapons on the net, a kill switch,” he continued.

The Minister admitted that the possibility of an internet kill switch ever becoming a reality is pretty unlikely. “Commercial companies are struggling with it and part of the sensationalism and echo chambers drive profits and they have to make that decision between profit and social responsibility,” he explained.

It was stressed that these ideas are just a list of things “we need and if onlys,” meaning Singapore isn’t necessarily going to implement any of them.

Last month brought news that Singapore had started testing a couple of robots, called Xavier, in areas with high foot traffic that lookout for “undesirable social behaviors,” including flouting Covid-19 safety measures (such as “the congregation of more than five people”), smoking in prohibited areas, improper parking of bicycles, and illegal hawking.

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