Individual named K Shanmugam files POHA applications against social media giants, Google and TikTok

A recent entry in the Singapore court listings reveals that an individual named Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, who shares the same name as the Minister for Law and Home Affairs, has initiated proceedings against tech giant TikTok under the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (POHA). The case is set to be heard on the upcoming 2nd of November.

The exact motivation behind this application remains unclear. However, the case is scheduled for a management session on 2 November. An inquiry was forwarded to the minister’s office to ascertain his involvement in the case at the Singapore State Court, but there has been no response at the time of this post’s publication, making it impossible to confirm if they are indeed the same person.

In an intriguing development, the court listing indicated that the individual involved in the POHA case against TikTok has also filed a separate application against Google LLC. This case was initially slated for a hearing on the morning of Thursday, 19 October. However, the hearing has since been cancelled, according to the state court’s hearing list; it is unknown if the case was dismissed or adjourned.

Established in 2014, POHA is legislation that explicitly criminalizes various forms of harassment, including cyberbullying and online stalking, thereby providing legal recourse for individuals affected by such online misdemeanours.

In any case, Mr Shanmugam has been vocal about the necessity of fortifying these laws. He particularly emphasized, during last month’s Online Harms Symposium at Singapore Management University, the urgent need to expand the legislation.

The aim, according to the minister, is to empower individuals who fall prey to harmful online content, enabling them to seek adequate protection and legal justice.

Upon reviewing the hearing list, it was noted that legal representatives from Davinder Singh Chambers LLC attended a recent case management session for the defamation suits filed by Mr Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan against Mr. Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), son of Singapore’s late founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

The ministers have accused LHY of making allegations in a Facebook post, suggesting they acted corruptly and received preferential treatment from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) through unauthorized tree felling and state-funded renovations of 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

Both ministers have categorically refuted these allegations, while LHY has alleged that the two ministers were pressuring him to issue a public apology that he perceived to be falsified.

As there was a notable absence of participation from LHY, prompting expectations that the ministers might seek a summary judgment.

In a bid for an amicable resolution, LHY has advocated for independent arbitration, suggesting that each party appoints a reputable, internationally recognized arbitrator to ensure a fair and unbiased process. He stressed the importance of publicizing the decision for transparency and conclusiveness.

This proposal follows his earlier recommendation for the legal proceedings to occur in London, for reasons not made entirely clear. However, the ministers opted for legal action in Singapore, serving LHY via Facebook Messenger, an unusual yet court-sanctioned method, due to the complications of reaching him in the UK, where he is believed to be residing.

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