Facebook, Google warn Singapore against ‘fake news’ law

In an effort to curb the amount of ‘fake news’ circulating on places like social media and forums, Singapore is trying to introduce stricter legislation against the practice.  However, Facebook and Google are amongst many experts and academics that say that Singapore already has adequate laws to deal with the problem.

A threat to the nations security or a blatant attempt at free speech restriction?

But Singapore’s government say that such false information must be stopped as it could become a threat to national security, prompting Facebook and Google to speak out in front of a parliamentary committee set up to explore new ways to deal with the problem of misinformation.

Critics have spoken out against the Singapore government, accusing them of trying to put an end to free speech, however the government claim that they are simply looking for ways, including legislation, to contain the problem and has no intent to restrict peoples freedom of speech or expression.

Facebook’s head of public policy in Southeast Asia, Alvin Tan, issued a submission to the committee claiming that legislation would not be the best way to tackle the issue and that Singapore already has a multitude of existing regulations to deal with defamation, hate speech and fake news.

Facebook’s legal wrangle and personal data leak

Facebook is currently involved in a scandal of its own, following the release of personal information to the British based analysis company Cambridge Analytica who illegally utilized the data of millions of Facebook’s users, giving rise to a need for stricter privacy laws regarding sensitive information.

Google’s views

However, Google took a different stand point and argued that the best way to deal with the issue of misinformation is not to try to stop it, but t to educate people on the differences between reliable information and fake news.  And asked for a better quality of journalism where facts were checked and data thoroughly researched to ensure that the information being provided is reliable.

Although legislation is a possible option for Singapore, an out and out law against fake news might cause the already tightly controlled internet users to feel repressed and that their rights to free speech have been compromised.

Updating existing laws to meet the changing needs of internet users

Many experts have argued that legislation may be an option in other countries as their existing laws are not as thorough and as strict as Singapore’s which cover all aspects of freedom of speech, but the Singapore government representative argued that their existing laws were passed at a time when misinformation wasn’t a major problem in Singapore and that the law needed to be updated to keep up with the changes in how information is portrayed and digested online.

Unconvinced the committee has agreed to take all submissions and consider the matter before making any suggestions needed to their MP.  There has been no mention as to how long this will take.

As of yet there have not been any public statements made and no suggested legislation has been put forward for public scrutiny.

About the Author
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