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Singapore’s New TRAIL Centre for Legal Issues in the Technology Space

Singapore TRAIL Centre

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched a new research centre which is focused on legal issues surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data analytics.

This Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Law (Trail) will function as a platform for a pool of experts to come together and offer advice and create ideas on specific political or economic problems.

With the launch of this centre, NUS hopes for there to be more inter-disciplinary research in technology law.

NUS said that research work on the regulatory questions related to the deployment of AI, information technology, data analytics and robotics in the practice of law have begun.

The centre is also studying privacy and data protection matters with the lens of computer science and law. It has plans of expanding to legal and ethical issues existing in the biotechnology field as well.

The centre was officially launched by Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Edwin Tong, at an international academic conference on data privacy, held at NUS.

He said that Trail is a great way to collaborate with others within Singapore and across the world for gaining valuable research and policies that will help societies in the rising digital age.

He added that with the areas such as artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles advancing quickly with constant innovations, the law too has to be efficient in providing quick responses.

Mr Tong also outlined the challenges that Singapore has faced in moving forward with technological advancements and of the Government handled them.

  1. Regulations

Establishing regulations that balance the need to protect the public interest with promoting innovation was one such challenge.

The approach by the Government was to roll out regulatory sandboxes in fields such as transportation, fintech and healthcare which allowed for experimentation of innovation to be done within the guidelines set.

  1. Fake News

The spread of fake news was a serious issue in Singapore some time ago. In an earlier OpenGov article, we reported on the official launch of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

Under this act, Singapore’s ministers can decide if they want to take action on false claims made on the Internet. They can also direct their removal or have alterations done to it.

Ministers are also given the liberty to command technology companies to block accounts that are saying and influencing others with the so-called rumours.

Addressing concerns that the law could curb free speech, the government has assured people that the appeal process would be relatively fast and inexpensive for individuals.

The cost of initiating a court challenge was designed to allow fair redressal. It will cost $200 to file a court appeal against a statement made by a minister and will take about 9 days for the appeal to be heard in the High Court.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that the law has been designed to provide the Government with the tools for handling false information online that can be spread quickly within a short period, which could be detrimental to society stability.

Trails have a crucial role to play in propagating research and through leadership in technology law.

Mr Tong has encouraged researchers to work closely with the Government and public to facilitate discussions on creating a set of laws and regulations surrounding technology and innovation.

The new centre’s research unit is at the moment made up of 12 academic fellows. They include NUS law faculty dean Simon Chesterman. The team is to be led by Director of the NUS law faculty, Associate Professor Daniel Seng.

Prof David Tan from the university’s faculty of law and Prof Chang Ee-Chien from the School of Computing in NUS will be serving as deputy directors and assisting Assoc. Prof. Seng in it.


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