Facebook bans race rap video after Singapore gov′t complains | News | DW | 02.08.2019
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Facebook bans race rap video after Singapore gov't complains

Social media sites have pulled an angry hip-hop video after authorities in Singapore warned it could stoke racial tensions. Some residents have accused officials in the wealthy Asian city-state of double standards.

Facebook, YouTube and several other social media sites have blocked access to a controversial rap video that criticizes the casting of a Chinese-origin actor to play Malay and Indian characters in a Singaporean advertisement.

The ban follows a complaint to the global tech platforms by the Asian city-state's government, which has introduced strict laws against those who sow racial divisions.

In the video, comedian Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas use several expletives to describe Singaporeans of Chinese origin — who make up three-quarters of the country's population.

Read more: Singapore domestic workers 'suffer exploitation and abuse'

'Brownface' ad

The pair take aim at an advertising poster that features a well-known Chinese-Singaporean actor portraying Malay and Indian characters by darkening his skin and wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women.

Malays and Indians account for 15% and 8% of Singapore's population respectively.

Singapore's law and home minister K Shanmugam confirmed the government had asked social media sites to remove the rap, calling it "vulgar" and unacceptable. The video is now the subject of a police investigation.

Users trying to access the video on Facebook were shown a message saying that local laws prohibited the site from showing it.

Facebook rules not violated

A spokesperson for the social media giant told Reuters: "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 copy of the video on YouTube, which had attracted more than 40,000 views, carried an advisory that read: "This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government."

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Original ad not censored

The original ad also drew fierce criticism and reignited the debate about attitudes to race, especially among those of Chinese ethnicity toward the minority Malay Muslim and ethnic Indian communities.

Some online users complained of double standards as no ban was imposed on the poster for a mobile e-payment platform.

The ad has however been withdrawn and the producers have apologized for any offense.

Singapore's leaders are frequently under fire for restricting free speech and other civil liberties. A controversial new fake news law that is set to take effect later this year gives authorities sweeping powers to vet online platforms and even private chat groups.

mm/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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