Singapore passes new law to police fake news despite concerns | Daily News

Singapore passes new law to police fake news despite concerns

After an intense debate, Singapore's parliament has passed a sweeping "anti-fake news" bill despite concerns raised by journalists, academics and global technology companies over free speech and abuse of power.

Legislators in the island-nation on Wednesday voted to grant government ministers broad powers such as the ability to demand corrections, order the removal of content, or block websites deemed to be propagating falsehoods contrary to the public interest. Penalties for not complying with orders include steep fines and jail time.

Critics say the legislation grants arbitrary powers to government officials to determine what is deemed as fact, arguing that the private sector should be the final arbiter of what constitutes false and irresponsible statements. They say the answer lies in fact-checking websites, vigilance by tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter and increased media literacy to help news consumers better distinguish between the plausible and the improbable.

Opponents also claim that the legislation will give government officials unprecedented powers and will stifle free speech in an era when populist leaders around the world label the media as the enemy of the people. Singapore, whose government regulates its large local media outlets, is ranked 151 out 180 in the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.

During the two-day debate in parliament, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam took issue with claims the law will have a "chilling effect" on free speech, and said the new measures will affect "falsehood, bots, trolls and fake accounts".

In the buildup to the heated debate, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called a legislative remedy an "essential part" in fighting online hate speech and fake news, adding that it has become "absurdly easy" for people to "conduct covert and subversive campaigns to manipulate opinions and influence elections".


(Sources: AlJazeera)

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