“Old but gold”: Courts, Credible Commitment, and Old School Speech Regulation in Singapore

Speech regulation is a core interest of the state. People demand control over certain forms of speech. Rulers want to maximize control of unwanted speech at the lowest costs possible. Yet, sometimes, states refrain from controlling speech in ways that are most cost-effective from a control standpoint. Under certain conditions, because revenue production is much more intertwined with digital speech infrastructure than with traditional media, rulers regulate digital speech in ways that do not upset private investment and try to shift the risk of liability for digital speech harms from private enterprises to users.
This paper argues that Singapore is such a case and shows how courts are one of the main venues for controlling digital speech, through judicial proceedings that target and punish (civil and criminal sanctions) speakers. Rulers with few constraints may have all the power to control speech, but a reason to commit to not do so in ways that upset infrastructure owners.