Singapore's new bill to combat fake news comes under heavy criticism

Ministry of Law replied to media queries about Human Rights Watch's comments on new legislation.

Fake news
Ministry of Communication and Information, Singapore

Singapore has already decided that they will restrain the surge of fake news in the country by imposing committees and new laws. On Monday, April 1 a draft legislation was introduced to combat false and misleading information on the internet. But for the critics, it is a weapon which can be used against people, who will stand against the government.

The Ministry of Law stated that the introduced legislation, Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, would require the websites to correct the misinformation and remove the online false news. This legislation would also cut off profits of sites, which will continue to post fake news or misleading information.

Since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's People's Action Party (PAP) has supported the bill, it can be expected that next week it will become a law in the country after voting in parliament, where PAP has the majority.

PM Lee
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Reuters

The Ministry of Law said that the new bill only aims to combat the fake news issue in the country, not free speech.

"It will help ensure online falsehoods do not drown out authentic speech and ideas and undermine democratic processes and society," added the Ministry.

On the other hand, as per The New York Times, the human rights advocates said that because of the legislation, authorities would have a leeway to decide what was true or false.

A Singaporean journalist and activist, Kirsten Han said that this bill gives the government so much power and options that "any minister can direct individuals or websites to post corrections or take down content, or order access to content to be blocked, and these orders have to be complied with first, even if one is going to appeal the direction in the courts."

However, as per the draft bill, the punishment for some violations could include fines of up to about $44,000 and a maximum jail term of six years for individuals, or fines of up to $738,000 in "any other case."

As per the critics, because of this bill many local and foreign online publishers could face several legal issues. In addition to that Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, "You're basically giving the autocrats another weapon to restrict speech, and speech is pretty restricted in the region already."

While responding to the media queries, the Ministry of Law stated that:

Response to media queries on Human Rights Watch’s statement on the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill
Response to media queries on Human Rights Watch’s statement on the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill Ministry of Law Singapore
Related topics : Fake news