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Facebook and YouTube block controversial Singapore race rap

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Facebook and other sites Friday blocked access to a rap video about race in multi-ethnic Singapore that is under police investigation after authorities asked for the footage to be removed.

The video shows an ethnic Indian comedian and YouTube star railing against an advert in which the skin of an actor of Chinese origin is darkened to make him look Indian.

The ad drew fierce criticism this week in Singapore, where race is highly sensitive — the country has an ethnic Chinese majority and is also home to Muslim and ethnic Indian minorities, as well as many foreigners.

In her video, comedian Preeti Nair delivers an expletive-filled rap alongside her brother Subhas that appears to target the Chinese majority, while standing in front of the advert.

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Police in tightly-controlled Singapore, which has strict laws against sowing divisions between races, have launched an investigation into the “offensive” video.

After a request from regulators some posts of the video could not be accessed on Facebook in Singapore, with a message appearing that said local laws prohibited the site from showing it.

The video was blocked on YouTube alongside a message that it was not available due to a complaint from the government. Twitter also blocked posts related to the footage.

In a statement, Facebook said it removes content which violates its own “community standards” when it becomes aware of it.

“There are also times when we may have to restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our community standards,” it added.

Twitter declined to comment. YouTube did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

The media regulator, Infocomm Media Development Authority, said that the video had been shared on social media, and it had “issued notices to the individuals and internet platforms for their cooperation to remove the videos.”

The city-state is frequently criticised for restricting free speech and other civil liberties.

K. Shanmugam, law and home affairs minister, has however described the rap video as an attack on another race that is “not acceptable”.

The ad for electronic payments featured an actor from state-owned broadcaster Mediacorp playing four different characters. After the backlash, Mediacorp apologised and the ad disappeared from a website and some public places.

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