CNA Explains: Why is Telegram becoming a hotbed for crime? | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Data recovery could also be a challenge for law enforcement agencies, especially with cloud and web-based storage technology, he said.

The sheer volume and scale of messaging activity on messaging apps also complicate law enforcement efforts, Mr Wee said.

“Communities often contain thousands of users, each of whom may also message each other privately. New communities or groups can also spring up almost instantaneously, making detection and tracking difficult,” he added.

A CNB spokesperson told CNA that its anti-drug operations are guided by careful intelligence gathering and effective investigations to disrupt the supply of controlled drugs and neutralise drug activities.

“These drug offenders may think that such chat applications would enable them to transact anonymously. However, regardless of the platform or tactics used in an attempt to evade detection, drug offenders cannot escape the long arm of CNB’s enforcement efforts,” the spokesperson said.


Holding Telegram accountable for criminal activities carried out on the messaging app will be difficult, according to two lawyers CNA spoke to.

Telegram can argue that it has no control over the content that is exchanged on the app, said Mr Wee, adding that the use of end-to-end encryption also allows Telegram to “claim that it has no knowledge of the contents of messages exchanged”.

Messaging apps like Telegram are also often located in jurisdictions in which enforcement of judgments or orders is difficult, he added.

Mr James Gomez said that it would be challenging to establish criminal liability – which often involves intention – against Telegram which is a “significantly bona fide application for communication”.

However, lawyers CNA spoke to highlighted that messaging apps such as Telegram may be held legally accountable for criminal activities carried out on their platform under the newly-enacted Online Criminal Harms Act 2023 (OCHA), which was passed in Parliament on Jul 5.

“The OCHA will enable the authorities to deal more effectively with illegal material online,” Mr Ng said.

“The OCHA allows the government to issue directions to online services through which criminal activities are conducted. It applies to select criminal offences, such as online scams, sexual offences, online gambling and drug trafficking.”

“Where there has been non-compliance with directions, the government may issue orders against non-compliance, including orders blocking or restricting access in Singapore to the messaging platform in question. The government can also make an order for the removal of the messaging platform from Singapore app stores,” he added.

Mr James Gomez said that the Act “provides better access for law enforcement agencies to control online illegal activities and to allow them to better regulate illegal online activities”.

The Act allows law enforcement to obtain information from online service providers such as Telegram which makes tracing criminal activities more effective, Mr James Gomez added.

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