Regional updates: Asia

What were the main digital policy regional updates in Asia? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.

Follow the GIP's June 2020 briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Asia region during June. Register to attend.

May 2020

Curated by Amrita Choudhury

Highest online sexual abuse of children in Philippines

22 May 2020 |  Child safety online

The International Justice Mission aid group's seven-year study reports that the Philippines is the largest known source of online sexual abuse of children. In a society where poverty is rampant, the report points that in most cases, parents and relatives were responsible for facilitating the abuse. In many cases, the victims had been abused for years, and among the reported cases, the youngest was less than a year old.

Fluency in English along with high speed connectivity are opined as reasons as to why the Philippines become a ‘global hot-spot’ for child pornography.

Based on the data collected from law enforcement, the report indicates that the proportion of Philippine Internet addresses used to host child pornography had tripled in the three years leading to 2017.

UNICEF had reported that the Philippines is one of the top global sources of child sex abuse materials, with 600 000 ‘sexualised’ photos of Filipino children bartered and traded in 2018 alone.

Australian parliament adopts stronger privacy protection for COVID-19 tracing app

15 May 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

According to the New Daily, the Australian parliament has adopted legislation strengthening the privacy protection of the government’s COVID-19 tracing app. The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, hopes that these new protections will encourage citizens to join the 5.63 million who have downloaded and registered for the contact tracing scheme. According to ZDNet, the legislation ‘introduces serious offenses relating to the COVIDSafe app data, covering the non-permitted collection, use, or disclosure of the data; the uploading of app data without consent; retaining or disclosing uploaded data outside Australia; decrypting the encrypted app data; and requiring COVIDSafe participation’.

Pakistan introduces draft data protection bill

15 May 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

According to the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has recently introduced a new draft Personal Data Protection Bill. The ministry had also launched a public consultation, which ended on May 15, 2020. The legislation applies to ‘any person who processes’ or ‘has control over or authorizes the processing of’ any personal data, if the data subject, the controller, or processor are located in Pakistan, and would establish new requirements related to the processing of personal data, as well as penalties for violating the law.

Indonesia to charge VAT from online companies from July

15 May 2020 |  Taxation

Starting from July 2020, online companies in Indonesia will have to pay a value added tax (VAT) to the government. Aimed at boosting revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government plans to impose a tax of 10% on all digital products sold by non-resident Internet companies that include: streaming services, online games, and applications with a significant presence in the Indonesian market.

Child abuse predators create 'handbook' listing ways to target children during COVID-19 

13 May 2020 |  Child safety online

Australia's e-safety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant has said that child abusers have created and shared an online grooming manual describing ways to manipulate and exploit children online during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more children spending time online, investigators are seeing a significant increase in the searches by predators on the dark web on how to abuse children. Grant shared ‘The handbook advises predators to get their kicks online rather than trying to meet children face-to-face because of restrictions and heightened vigilance of law enforcement on the streets.’ 

According to the commission’s reports, Australia has witnessed a significant rise in child sexual abuse material reports by 27% in March and 37% in April 2020. The Australian federal police, which runs the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, has seen an increase of 123% in cases of children being targeted through social networking, image or video-sharing apps, and instant messaging between October 2019 and March 2020, when compared with the same period the previous year.

China launches two satellites for its space-based IoT project

12 May 2020 |  Internet of Things (IoT)

China launches two communication satellites for its space-based Internet of Things (IoT) project. The two satellites, Xingyun-2 01 and 02, are the Xingyun Engineering project’s first satellites, conducted by the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC). The project aims to build a low-orbit narrow-band satellite communications system, and to set-up a communications network for IoT devices and networks.

China announces mobile IoT network policy

7 May 2020 |  Internet of Things (IoT)

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China announced their mobile Internet of Things (IoT) network policy. The objectives of the policy are: to speed up the construction of the mobile IoT network; to strengthen research on mobile IoT standards and technologies; improve the breadth and depth of mobile IoT applications; and to establish and improve the mobile IoT security system.

Citizen jury to deliberate on gene editing regulation in Australia

6 May 2020 |  Emerging technologies

In a project funded by the Australian Federal Government's Genomics Health Futures Mission, the University of Tasmania will set up a citizen jury of 24 individuals to deliberate on gene editing regulation and ethics. The two-year study, entitled, 'Genome Editing: Formulating an Australian Community Response' will examine how to gather community opinion on the use of innovative gene editing. The jury will hear from experts and advocates about gene editing technologies and will deliberate on how public policies and regulations should govern such technologies. The deliberations will then be analysed, reported to the government, and publicised.

Australian shipping giant Toll hit by ransomware for the second time

6 May 2020 |  Cybercrime

Australian shipping giant Toll was hit by a ransomware attack. This attack is the second incident the company has faced this year. Investigations revealed that the infection was attributed to the Nefilim ransomware. While Nefilim authors have claimed that the stolen data will be put on sale if not paid, Toll has announced that it does not plan to pay the ransomware claim as none of the data has been exfiltrated.

Boeing presents unmanned aircraft in Australia

4 May 2020 |  Artificial intelligence

A Boeing-led Australian industry team has presented a pilotless aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force. The 'Loyal Wingman' uses artificial intelligence (AI) to extend the capabilities of piloted and unpiloted platforms, and was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities, and requirements. The prototype will enter a ground testing phase and is expected to have its first flight later in 2020. According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, 'the Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future'.

DCW issues notice to police and Instagram over a group of minors sharing objectionable pictures and discussing rape

4 May 2020 |  , Gender rights online, Human rights principles

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) in India has sent notices to the Delhi Police and Instagram over a group on the social media platform called 'Bois Locker Room'. The group was allegedly discussing rape and sharing objectionable pictures of minors. DCW Chairperson, Swati Maliwal, described the incident as ‘very serious’, as an open media platform was used for illegal activities. The conversations were exposed after one of the members of the group took screenshots and shared it with someone else. The Instagram thread was then posted on social media by one of the girls who was targeted. Investigators have found that the group had 22 members, out of which two were adults. 

The administrator of the Bois Locker Room has been arrested and the police have asked Instagram for more information.

Data breach in Australia exposes personal data of 700 000 migrants

2 May 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

The home affairs department in Australia experienced a data breach which resulted in exposing the personal information of 774 000 migrants and individuals aspiring to migrate to Australia. The information includes the outcome of applications, along with the applicants’ names, country of origin, age, qualifications, and marital status. Expressions of interest from candidate migrants are stored for two years and were displayed on a publicly available app, advertised on a governmental website.

DCW issues notice to police and Instagram over a group of minors sharing objectionable pictures and discussing rape

April 2020

Curated by Amrita Choudhury

Facebook buys 9.9% of Reliance Jio stakes

22 Apr 2020 |  Telecommunications infrastructure

Facebook has bought  9.9% of Indian telecommunications company Reliance Jio’s stakes for US$5.7 billion, allowing Facebook a firm foothold in India's fast-growing telecom market while helping Reliance reduce its debt burden. Reliance Jio is the biggest telecom operator in the country with more than 370 million subscribers.

The deal is reportedly the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the technology sector in India. Apart from this investment, Jio Platforms, Reliance Retail, and Facebook's WhatsApp have also entered a commercial agreement to further accelerate Jio's e-commerce business with Whatsapp in Reliance's JioMart platform.

The deal will need to be cleared by the country’s antitrust body, Competition Commission of India (CCI), which will assess if the partnership will adversely impact the national telecom and retail market.


Google and Facebook may have to pay news companies in Australia

20 Apr 2020 |  Taxation

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced draft rules for online platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay fair compensation to news outlets for news content. The decision to mandate compensation for news articles featured on online platforms comes at a time when the Coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the advertising revenue of news companies; the draft rules are planned to come into effect in July 2020. According to Joshua Anthony Frydenberg, Treasurer, Australian government,  earlier attempts to negotiate a voluntary code where global platforms would pay traditional media for their content failed since parties could not agree on ‘this key issue of payment for content’.

A Facebook spokesperson expressed disappointment at the government’s announcement and a Google spokesperson stated that the company would work constructively with the industry under the new rules.


India announces new FDI rules to avoid hostile takeovers during COVID-19 pandemic

17 Apr 2020 |  E-commerce and trade

The Indian government announced changes in the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules to curb ‘opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions’ from any entity that shares a land border with India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China is not mentioned by name, it is widely seen as a move to prevent takeovers by Chinese firms. Under the new rule, such entities would be required to obtain government approval for any investment or transfer of ownership of Indian companies via FDI investments.

ESCAP releases Digital and Sustainable Regional Integration Index

16 Apr 2020 |  Sustainable development

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has released the Digital and Sustainable Regional Integration Index and Indicator Framework (DigiSII1.0), that seeks to develop a global indicator framework for digital and sustainable regional integration. The study provides an overview of seven dimensions: (a) trade and investment, (b) free movement of people, (c) infrastructure, (d) regulatory co-operation, (e) digital economy integration that facilitate the evaluation of regional integration in the Asia-Pacific. It also addresses drivers of regional integration and tackles issues such as conventional versus sustainable regional integration. 

The report was released as part of the UN Development Account Project on ‘Measuring, monitoring and improving performance in regional integration within ECA, ESCWA and ESCAP regions’. 


115 million mobile users data in Pakistan put on sale on dark web

10 Apr 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

According to the Business Recorder, a cybersecurity company has discovered a data dump of 115 million Pakistani mobile users data, up for sale on the dark web for US$2.1 million. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is now investigating the reported data breach, which includes full name, address, mobile number, NIC, and tax numbers of Pakistani citizens.

ESCAP publishes policy brief on COVID-19 to tackle digital divide

10 Apr 2020 |  Sustainable development

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) published a policy brief ‘The Impact and Policy Responses for COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific’, highlighting the need to step up efforts to ‘reduce the digital divide’ which have come into greater focus with the introduction of social distancing measures. The document specifies that ICTs can help fight the pandemic through better provision of services, access to vital information, and virtual connectivity that help overcome psychological and social isolation. 

WhatsApp group admins can be liable for messages by group members in India

8 Apr 2020 |  Content policy

Maharashtra Cyber’s Office of Special Inspector General of Police in India issued an advisory notice alerting admins of WhatsApp groups could, along with users, be held liable for posting illegal, fake or objectionable content on WhatsApp groups. The advisory notice cited the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to alert that admins can be liable for fake news, hate speech, and misinformation in groups. Moreover, it requires admins to ensure that: every group member is reliable and responsible enough to only share verified information; to inform all group members about the rules of posting in the group; and to inform the police if any members resort to mischief and share objectionable content.

March 2020

Curated by Amrita Choudry

India issues Telemedicine Guidelines

26 Mar 2020 |  Sustainable development

To ensure medical services are available during the 21 day lockdown in India; the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs in collaboration with NITI Aayog and the Board of Governors Medical Council of India (MCI) has issued a set of guidelines for telemedicine. This will allow patients to consult certified medical practitioners and get prescriptions based on telephonic, textual, online or video conversations.

APNIC and WIDE Project launch Internet development trust

25 Mar 2020 |  Capacity development

The Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) along with the Widely Integrated Distributed Environment (WIDE Project) announced the launch of the Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust (APIDT) which aims to support the work of the APNIC Foundation. APIDT will specially focus on building technical skills and capacity, improving critical Internet infrastructure, supporting research and development, and improving community capability to build an open, global, stable and secure Internet. APNIC held a Q&A session to discuss the creation of the trust with relevant parties on 27 March.

Singapore launches coronavirus tracing mobile app

20 Mar 2020 |  Sustainable development

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health has launched a mobile app for tracing the spread of coronavirus. The app is called TraceTogether and it can only be downloaded with a Singapore mobile phone number. Once installed, the user is requested to consent to enable push notifications and location tracking. The app works by sending short distance Bluetooth signals between users who are about two meters apart. In case of an outbreak, one can access their movement data to find out if they were in close proximity to coronavirus patients. Tracing through the app is on a voluntary basis and the location data will be stored on the user’s phone. Google Play statistics show that the app had over 50 0000 50,000 installations by 20 March.

India issues advisory for social media platforms to prevent misinformation

20 Mar 2020 |  Liability of intermediaries

In a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus on social media, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has issued an advisory for social media companies to initiate awareness campaigns on their platform against such misinformation, take immediate action and prioritise removing such content, and provide authentic information on coronavirus.

Australia’s OAIC releases guidelines on privacy in the workplace in context of COVID-19 pandemic

19 Mar 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

According to ZDNet, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has advised employers in Australia to comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 when handling personal information related to the coronavirus outbreak. The OAIC advises organisations to limit the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information to what is necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19. Only the minimum amount of personal information reasonably necessary to prevent or manage COVID-19 should be collected, used or disclosed. Also, employers should ensure reasonable steps are in place to keep personal information secure, including where employees are working remotely.

Australia to provide telehealth services to people under coronavirus isolation

11 Mar 2020 |  Sustainable development

The Australian Federal Government announced that it will allow doctors, nurses, and mental health practitioners to provide telehealth services such as video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic. The services enable people who undergo self-isolation or quarantine to access health services from their homes. The eligible population to benefit from telehealth services includes people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people aged over 50, people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised, parents with newborns, and pregnant women.

Japan introduces free online health consultation for coronavirus

11 Mar 2020 |  Sustainable development

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced the launch of  free online health consultation services, through which doctors can provide advice with patients according to their health conditions and symptoms. The METI designated two companies, Mediplat and LINE health care, to develop platforms to provide online health consultation. Mediplat provides services on the website called First Call, whereas people can also access the services on LINE, an online messaging application.

Australian Information Commissioner files privacy case against Facebook

9 Mar 2020 |  Privacy and data protection

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has filed a  case against Facebook over non-compliance to the Australian Privacy Act 1988. In the case registered, the OAIC  claims that Facebook disclosed personal information of Australian Facebook users to third-party application This Is Your Digital Life. This  is in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 6, as most data was collected from Facebook users who did not use the app themselves, but only were friends with the app’s users. The office also states that Facebook did not take reasonable steps during this period to protect the personal information of the users  from unauthorised disclosure, which is in breach of Australian Privacy Principle 11.

Singapore launches cybersecurity labeling scheme for IoTs

3 Mar 2020 |  Internet of Things (IoT)

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore announced the launch of their Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme (CLS). According to the scheme, cybersecurity labels will be issued to Internet of things (IoT) devices and will indicate their security provisions. The classification of products will be based on a series of tests on whether the products meet basic security standards such as: (a) ensuring unique default passwords; (b) adherence to the principles of security-by-design; (c) absence of software vulnerabilities; (d) resistance to basic penetration testing. In this way, consumers will be able to choose products not only based on functionality and cost, but also on their security ratings. The CLS will be launched as a voluntary scheme to enable developers to understand how the scheme benefits them, and the agency will monitor the response to the scheme.

Beijing introduces coloured QR code system to track coronavirus 

2 Mar 2020 |  Sustainable development

According to a report, China’s capital city Beijing joined more than 100 Chinese cities that assigned their residents with coloured QR codes in an attempt to track and contain the spread of coronavirus. The QR code system developed by Ant Financial’s Alipay has been launched amid concerns related to accuracy and privacy. Users of Alipay and WeChat can access their codes by inputting their name, national identity number, and registering with facial recognition. Only those with a green code are allowed to travel in the city freely while those with yellow and red codes are required to quarantine themselves at home or subject to supervised quarantine. According to Pan Feng, deputy chief of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology, the system will allow users to check the QR codes of others by entering their ID numbers.

February 2020

Curated by Amrita Choudhury

APRICOT2020 and APNIC49 concludes in Melbourne Australia

21 Feb 2020 |  Cloud computing

The APRICOT Workshops and Conference 2020 were held in Melbourne Australia. Apart from five days of workshops, the four conference days were attended by 563 participants from 59 economies. There were more than 50 sessions with 146 speakers. This conference marked the 25th anniversary of APRICOT. APNIC also released the APNIC Strategic Plan (2020-2023) which identifies five ‘strategic pillars’ of focus: membership, registry, development, information, and capability.

Pakistan introduces new rules for social media companies

13 Feb 2020 |  Liability of intermediaries, Content policy

The federal cabinet in Pakistan has introduced the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020 whereby social media companies are mandated to set up office in Pakistan within the next three months, create a data server in Pakistan within a year; remove or block content that is against the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security of the country or spreading misinformation. These rules have been opposed by several civil rights organisation and technology companies.

UNICEF and Bangladesh ICT Ministry to train one million school children on online safety

12 Feb 2020 |  Child safety online

On the occasion of a Safer Internet Day 2020, UNICEF announced that along with the Bangladesh ICT Division of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, they will be training and certifying one million school children across Bangladesh within the next year on cyber safety and how to protect themselves online.

South Korea to fund Interpol's project to combat online child exploitation 

11 Feb 2020 |  Child safety online, Cybercrime

The Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) will be providing an additional fund of 2.1 Million Euro to INTERPOL for a three year initiative, as a part of the Fight Against Child (Sexual) Exploitation (FACE) project launched in 2015.

The KNPA supported element of the FACE project would be focused on encouraging better access to Interpol's International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, promoting analysis and operational activity to identify victims, and apprehending offenders in the Asian region. Additionally, the cooperation is expected to help detect producers and distributors of child abuse material and taking down websites on both the Open Web and DarkNet.

Australia launches booklet to protect children online

11 Feb 2020 | 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the release of the booklet ‘Online Safety for under 5s’ developed by the eSafety Commissioner, that offers advice to parents on how to keep their preschool children safe online.

The booklet is the next phase of the commissioner’s ‘tart the Chat’ initiative, which promotes safer online experiences for children and equips parents, caregivers, and teachers with ‘practical resources for having conversations about safe and responsible internet use’.

Australian government published the national blockchain road-map

7 Feb 2020 |  Blockchain

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources of the Government of Australia published a national blockchain roadmap. The document aims to set the national strategy regarding a blockchain technology roadmap for the next five years.

China using AI to screen subway passengers for coronavirus symptoms

6 Feb 2020 |  Artificial intelligence

It is being reported that China is using artificial intelligence (AI) and temperature scanners in Beijing to screen subway passengers for symptoms of the coronavirus. Chinese AI companies Magvii and Baidu have implemented AI-powered scanners across several subway stations to detect passengers’ body temperatures. The scanners send alerts to company workers if they detect that a person’s body temperature indicates a fever. The fever detection system developed by Megvii is said to be able to measure a person’s temperature in a crowd at a distance of up to five meters. It can also measure the temperature of up to 15 people per second at one checkpoint. Baidu’s system is said to detect the temperature of people on the move, with a margin of error within 0.05 degrees Celsius.

Myanmar re-imposes Internet shutdown in conflict-ravaged Rakhine and Chin

5 Feb 2020 |  Access

According to a news report, Myanmar has once imposed a total shutdown of the Internet in the Western states of Rakhine and Chin after partially restoring the Internet in the two conflict-ravaged states some five months ago.

It is reported that the Transport and Communications Ministry of Myanmar (MoTC) had ordered mobile operators to stop all mobile Internet traffic in five townships in Rakhine and Chin, citing security requirements and public interest as reasons.

In a joint statement, 29 human rights focused organisations have demanded that the government of Myanmar halt the restrictions and shutdowns.

Malaysia CERT (MyCERT) issues warning against cyber espionage campaign

5 Feb 2020 |  Cybercrime

The Malaysia CERT (MyCERT) has issued an advisory warning that a cyber espionage campaign has been conducted against government officials in the country with an aim to infect government computers with malware and then steal confidential documents. It is reported that the alert points the finger at APT40, a Chinese state-sponsored hacking crew.

Philippines joins plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce

3 Feb 2020 |  E-commerce and trade

The government of the  Philippines circulated a statement (INF/ECOM/50) among members of World Trade Organization (WTO) announcing its decision to join the ongoing plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce taking place at the WTO, known as the Join Statement Initiative (JSI). According to the statement, the country expects that that negotiations will provide guidelines and rules that will help members, especially of developing and least developed countries, to better harness the benefits of the digital economy. The Philippine’s decision brings the total membership of the JSI to 83 countries.

Australia invests in IoT for farming

1 Feb 2020 |  Internet of Things (IoT)

The Victorian government in Australia is developing a programme to provide US$8 million in funding, guidance, and technical support to help farmers use Internet of things (IoT) technology on their farms. The programme involves cooperation between Agriculture Victoria and NNNCo (Australia’s LoRaWAN network operator); and it will enable sensors to provide users with information about weather, soil moisture, micro climate (leaf wetness, frost, rain gauge, wind speed, wind direction, and light-sensing), plant growth, and plant stress. The aim of the project is to help farmers improve productivity, efficiency, and sustainability.

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