On November 30, after receiving instruction from the Singapore government, Facebook added a “correction notice” to an article posted by the States Times Review. Lawmakers from the city-state requested the correction notice after alleging the article contained false information. The note issued by Facebook and embedded in the article said the social media site “is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information.”
Singapore introduces fake news law
The correction notice on the States Times Review article is the first time Facebook has issued a false information disclaimer under Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill. Introduced in October, the bill allows the Singapore government to order online platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to correct and in some cases remove what it considers to be false statements made “against the public interest.”
The Guardian reports that if officials deem a post damaging to the national interest, the Singapore government can fine companies up to S$1 million ($720,000). Individuals who break the law could face up to ten years in jail. Authorities in Singapore say that free speech “should not be affected by this bill.” Instead, they argue the bill tackles “falsehoods, bots, trolls and fake accounts.”
Critics of the law
For critics, the law heightens concerns that the government seeks to suppress free speech and discussion. The law would “give authorities unchecked powers to clamp down on online views of which it disapproves,” according to Amnesty International.
The correction notice issued to Facebook was only the second time the Singapore government has invoked the fake news law since its introduction. The BBC and The Guardian report that the law was used for the first time when Brad Bowyer, an opposition politician born in the United Kingdom, received orders to correct a Facebook post that “questioned the independence of state investment firms.”
Allegations of arrests and corruption
An article published by the States Times Review on November 23 accused the Singapore government of arresting a whistleblower. The publication also claimed that “elections in Singapore are rigged” and the electoral system is “corrupted.”
The BBC describes States Time Review as a “fringe news site”. The website has about 50,000 Facebook followers and is inaccessible to users outside Singapore.
Singapore government response
Responding to the claims, the Singapore government said, “Misleading and false statements were made by the States Times Review.” According to Singapore authorities, the accusations were “false and baseless.” In a statement, authorities said the government had not arrested anyone. The government also accused the States Times Review of making “scurrilous accusations” against Singapore’s prime minister and its election process.
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