Establishment of Anti Fake News Law in Singapore Draws Criticism

Establishment of Anti Fake News Law in Singapore Draws Criticism 

Last updated on May 16th, 2019

Following the continuous risks of widely spreading fake news, Singapore’s parliament passed “anti-fake news” bill on Wednesday to overcome the issue. The introduction of such a bill would allow the authorities to order the removal of online content that is regarded as false.  

The bill drew criticism from journalists, academics and global technology companies, claiming it to be a restriction over their free speech and civil liberties. They insisted that the fake news law was a complete abuse of power.

The debate for the bill in the Parliament lasted for two days, wherein the city-state’s small opposition Worker’s Party rejected the measures.

“To introduce such a bill is not what the government, which claims to defend democracy and public interest, should do,” said one of the party’s MPs Low Thia Khiang.

“It is more like the actions of a dictatorial government that will resort to any means to hold on to absolute power,” he continued with his conflicting views.

People’s Action Party that has been dominating in Singapore from a long time, with 83 out of 89 parliamentary seats, stood in favour of imposing the fake news law.  

Law and Home affairs minister K. Shanmugam on Tuesday criticised the tech companies, saying the government could not rely upon the companies to regulate themselves. He even added that the companies would respond in numerous ways to prove their extent. However, the government must remain stern with it decisions.  

Shanmugam even clarified that the fake news law would focus on targeting false statements and not an individual’s opinion while ordering corrections to be placed, alongside the fake primary responses, rather than fines or jail terms. With the introduction of this law, Singapore has become one of the countries to believe that spread of falsehoods could destroy trust in between institutions, bringing divisions in the society.

Thereby with the current fake news laws, if an action is hateful while evaluating and damages Singapore’s interests, the companies involved in it could be fined up to Sg$1 million (US$735,000) . Individuals could even face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Although there has been a tough legislation against sedition, defamation and disturbing racial harmony in Singapore and people have largely followed the laws, certain other groups claim that they have the will to take on the authorities. Despite the laws, a few local alternative news sites on internet have been more critical of the authorities than other sites, newspapers, and TV.

Critics have claimed that the legislation would grant arbitrary powers to government officials, thereby arguing that the private sector should have the final say in the irresponsible statements. The government’s law to order the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to put warnings next to the posts that were considered false, seemed irrelevant to them.

Despite the conflicting views related to the law, a major part of the population being aware of the threats of “fake news” agreed with the government’s proposals.

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