Current legislations are more than enough to combat deliberate online falsehoods

Last week, States Times Review (STR) posted an article titled “Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target”. I didn’t read the article but knowing that it is from STR, I knew the chances of that article being fake is rather high. But of cos, an article like this wouldn’t sit well with the Government. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) ordered STR to take down the article by Friday (9 Nov) 5pm or it will direct Internet Service Providers to restrict access to the site.
At the same time, a request was sent to Facebook for them to remove the article from STR’s Facebook page. According to a statement from the Law Ministry, Facebook declined to take down a post. The statement used this to justify the need for legislation to protect Singapore from deliberate online falsehoods.
Firstly, there’s no need for more legislation to protect Singapore from deliberate online falsehoods. We already have the capabilities and framework to combat online falsehood. Just take this case for example. After STR posted the article, the Singapore Government and High Commission in Malaysia issued a clarification to say the post was false and libellous. This was widely reported in many reputable news sites and most people already know that STR is not a trustworthy site. And when STR refuse to take down the article by the deadline, the website was blocked by all Singapore ISP. Right now, if you try visiting STR in Singapore, you’ll be greeted with this message.

I’m not a fan of Government censoring the internet but unfortunately they have the power to order local ISP to restrict access to certain website. And it works perfectly for them. So what other legislation does the Law Ministry need to combat deliberate online falsehoods?
There is no need for additional legislation to fight deliberate online falsehoods. Transparency and education are the best way to combat fake news. It is better to educate everyone on how to spot fake news. The Media Literacy Council is doing a good job in educating everyone on how to deal with fake news.
So why is the Law Ministry pushing for more legislation when existing legislation are more than enough?
We need to be careful before making new laws to regulate the internet. While the original intention is good, they might be abused by others in the future. The current legislations are more than enough. In fact, in my opinion, it already give the Government too much power.

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