In a move to curb misleading information and fake news, Singapore introduced draft legislation on Monday, which it said would put a lid on the spread of false news and information, but critics believe that it could be used as a repressive force and a cudgel against the government’s critics, according to a report by ZDNet.
The legislation which has been termed as the ‘Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill’ would require websites to run corrections alongside ‘online falsehoods’ and it would also ‘cut off profits’ of sites that don’t comply with the regulations and play a part in disseminating false and fake news, according to the Ministry of Law.
As per the report, orders could also be sent to the internet providers to disable internet connection to those who don’t abide by the law and are found to be creating or disseminating fake news.
According to the bill, misinformation is anything that is against the interest of the people. But the fact remains that the definition of public interest is very vague and will allow the government authorities to keep a tab on the information as long as it protects the city-state’s security, public health or finances, relations with other countries, or the independence of its election outcomes, which at times can give the government too much power which the critics feel can be dangerous.
The blockable information will also contain information that can incite feelings of hatred, enmity or hatred between different communities and groups of people.
While the government has introduced the bill, the human rights activists are up in arms and are saying that this bill is the perfect recipe for human rights disaster. Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, tweeted that the draft legislation “looks like a human rights disaster in the making, with plenty of extra-territorial application to make publishers in Asia and elsewhere very concerned.”
As per the bill, the offenders and the propagators of fake news will face a fine of SG$100,000 or ten years of imprisonment or both. They can also face a fine of SG$1 million. The move by the government in Singapore is similar to those implemented in countries like Germany and Australia. In a similar move, the Australian government has said it would introduce new laws that would apply criminal penalties to media companies that allow videos of serious offences, such as terrorist attacks, to be live-streamed on their platforms.