Singapore warned against ‘fake news’ law

SINGAPORE: Internet giants Facebook and Google on Thursday testified before a parliamentary committee in Singapore as they warned the city-state against introducing new laws to combat “fake news”, saying that existing legislation is adequate to address the problem.
Their warnings were made to a parliamentary committee which is examining possible measures, including legislation, to tackle false online information which the government says could threaten national security.
Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared before the committee on Thursday, and are among scores of experts, academics and activists called to testify over eight days.
The financial hub is among several countries looking at legislation to rein in fake news but critics have cautioned this could be used to curb free speech.
The Singapore government has denied it is trying to restrict free speech.
In a submission given to the committee before testifying, Alvin Tan, Facebook’s head of public policy in Southeast Asia, said: “We do not believe that legislation is the best approach to addressing the issue.
“Singapore already has a variety of existing laws and regulations which address hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news.”
His comments came as Facebook is embroiled in a privacy scandal following revelations that British data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica exploited the personal data of millions of users of the social network.
Facebook’s Asia-Pacific vice- president for public policy Simon Milner admitted during the hearing that the social media giant could have told users earlier that their data had been breached by Cambridge Analytica between 2014 and 2015.
“That’s one of the lessons for us, as to why we’re now going to audit all other apps and not just going to take their affirmation… that they have deleted data and not passed it on,” he said.
Google also raised concerns about a fake news law, saying in a written submission that “an effective way of combating misinformation is through educating citizens on how to distinguish reliable from unreliable information”. Instead of legislation, it called for “promoting quality journalism to ensure that there is a robust network of fact-checking organisations providing reliable information and debunking falsehoods”. — AFP