Judicial Independence, Legitimacy and digital speech regulation in Singapore

Authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes are likely to have tamed courts which abide by the regime leadership’s will. But scholarly literature on courts in authoritarian regimes already nuanced this picture, by pointing how a reasonably independent court system may be explanatory of degree and forms of opposition repression. In this paper, I develop a case study of Singapore digital speech regulation and find that, when government expects court alignment with its government speech control interests, it is likely to use judicial process to deflect blame and control speech by focus on the speaker, instead of interfering with digital infrastructure and speech intermediaries. This allowed the Singaporean government to sustain the discourse that it is not engaged in arbitrary political persecution. It is just employing law enforcement through courts. Maintaining an appearance of free environment on the Internet is important given Singapore in building a tech/digital industry.