FAKE NEWS GETS REAL

Written by Julian Sng

What happened?

The Singapore Parliament has tabled the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill on 1 April. This provides the state more power to deal with online falsehoods (online facts that are false and misleading). With this bill, any minister can make requests for corrections to be made, removal of falsehoods and disabling fake accounts that spread falsehoods. In addition, the bill also binds tech companies to anti-falsehood rules and creates further sanctions against those who knowingly facilitate the communication of falsehoods, be it through the use of bots and other services.

 

Let’s begin our sentences with IMO and ending it with our 2 cents

The bill only applies to statements not opinions, criticism, satire or parody. However, if one’s content has been flagged as falsehood, the content creator has to either take it down or request the minister to cancel the order. If the minister refuses, an appeal will be made to the High Courts.

Falsehoods that can be criminalised are those which are prejudicial to national security, foreign relations, elections and public confidence in the performance of the state. This also includes inciting ill-feelings towards other groups or the government or false remarks surrounding public health, safety, tranquility and finance.

 

Cause for concern

While the problem of fake news is pertinent, critics of the bill are pointing out several details that are a cause for concern. These include allowing any minister to issue an order of a falsehood takedown, an exclusion clause that allows the exemption of this law to any individuals or class of people, an unspecified timeline for the ministers to respond to the cancellation order and the legal costs of presenting your case in court.   

 

Likely to be passed

Given that the People’s Action Party forms the supermajority in parliament. It is likely that the bill will be passed. However, it might also be possible that the party whip will be lifted − allowing MPs to vote freely on this important issue. Regardless, because opinions are supposedly not within the purview of the fake news bill, it will still be legal to throw shade at whoever. Imo.

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