MDA blocks extramarital dating website

SINGAPORE - Extramarital dating website Ashley Madison has been banned here, after Singaporeans objected to its recent announcement that it was setting up a local portal.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) said that it has worked with Internet service providers to block access to the site.

Normal attempts to access the Canadian-based website from within Singapore brought the following message: "The website you are trying to access is restricted by the MDA."

But as of last night, the website could still be accessed through virtual private networks. The site's ".sg" domain featured a woman holding a finger to her lips, with the site announcing it was "coming in November", and inviting people to register.

The MDA said the Government has a pragmatic and lighttouch approach to regulating the Internet, and that it blocks a limited number of sites - most of which are pornographic - as a "symbolic statement".

But Ashley Madison was targeted because it "stood out".

"It aggressively promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs and has declared that it will specifically target Singaporeans," said the MDA.

"It is against the public interest to allow Ashley Madison to promote its website in flagrant disregard of our family values and public morality."

But the authority recognises that site blocking is "not a perfect way" because it can be circumvented.

Ashley Madison, which was set to be launched here in the week of Nov 17 at the earliest, would have been made available in all four official languages, The Straits Times understands.

Members pay the website to contact each other. The brand reached Asia this year, first with a Japan site in June, followed by a Hong Kong site in August.

Many Singaporeans, including Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, have rejected the proposed local edition.

Almost 27,000 people showed their opposition by supporting a "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore" Facebook page.

The National Family Council said it welcomed the MDA move to block access to the website, which is "detrimental to the foundations of a family".

Chairman Ching Wei Hong said: "We are heartened by the responses of many Singaporeans who stood together with us... upholding the importance of commitment and fidelity in marriage."

Mr Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said he was "happy" to hear of the ban.

He had filed a question for the Parliament session next Monday asking whether the site would be allowed here.

"It is true that if people want to cheat, they can seek other avenues.

But we should not make it any easier, knowing full well the intentions of the website," he said.

But others like marriage counsellor Tammy Fontana, 43, did not think banning the site would reduce instances of adultery.

The lead therapist of All In The Family Counselling said: "People have been cheating long before there have been websites."

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