The issue of fake news is important to Singapore given the fact that it is a global financial hub, widespread proliferation of internet, its demographic mix of religious and ethnic populations and that it is scheduled to old elections by early 2021. Ever since it got independence from Britain 50 years ago, Singapore has been run by the same political party.
On Thursday, a parliamentary committee in Singapore told the government that it should consider drafting legislation to ensure technology companies rein in the free run of fake news and that those responsible for it should be punished.
The committee was set up to make recommendations to take measures against “deliberate online falsehoods”. It was of the opinion that although tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter “have a policy of generally not acting against” content known to be false, this should be suitably adjusted to the changing times.
“I think there is increasing recognition on all sides that there has to be responsibility on the part of tech companies and that governments have to intervene to ensure that responsibility,” said Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who is a member of the panel.
He felt that the government’s response to the recommendations had to be “urgent and serious”.
The government has accepted the recommendations in principle and it would work with stakeholders to adopt legislative and non-legislative measures in the months to come, said Shanmugam in a statement. He did not elaborate on what those measures would mean.
Tech companies have expressed concerns on Singapore’s efforts to bring in new legislation aimed at fake news saying there are enough rules already in place to deal with the menace of fake news.
Google, for example, stated, it has taken “the issue of false information seriously” and looks forward in continuing to work with the Singapore government to address such issues.
Twitter was also of the same opinion. It said, it was concerned “deeply about the issues of misinformation” and their “potentially harmful effects on the civic and political discourse” and added it looked forward to working closely with Singapore “on the full range of approaches to address these issues”.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.