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The "Fake News" law raises new questions about the status of Singapore as a technology and media center



According to the Law on the Protection of Online Mistakes and Manipulation, it will be unlawful to distribute "false facts" in Singapore, where this information "harms" Singapore's security, public security, "peace of mind" or "friendly relations with other countries in Singapore" "Among many other topics. Individuals found guilty of a violation of the law may be fined up to 50,000 SGD (more than $ 36,000) and, or until the age of ninety years. If "fake news" is posted using a "non-genuine online account or controlled by a bot", then the total potential penalty is increased to 100,000 SGD (about $ 73,000) and, or up to 10 years in prison.

Companies such as Facebook may face fines of up to SGN 1

million (about $ 735,000) if found guilty of false news.

What exactly represents a "false statement of fact" must be determined by the government, which can then choose the correction request, the removal of the offending official, or the legal action against the poster or the social network.

In Singapore, bad press freedom results. In recent world rankings on freedom of the press, carried out by the Observer Reporters Without Borders, Singapore has deployed 151 out of 180 countries among the worst positions for a country that considers itself to be a democracy.

Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Asia Phill Robertson told CNN that he expects the new bill that will appear on the eve of the elections this year will be used for "political purposes."

"The Singapore government has a long history of calling everything they disagree with, as fake and misleading," he said.

The bill is sponsored by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Xiaen and will almost certainly convey to the ruling party. parliament was dominant.

Like the general problems of freedom of speech, it will also raise serious issues for international technology and media companies, called the Singapore House, including Facebook, Google and the BBC, each of which has its headquarters in Asia. Although CNN does not have an editorial presence in Singapore, its parent company WarnerMedia has offices in the city.

This international presence can make these companies vulnerable to pressure from the Singapore government and potentially put workers at risk of prosecution if they fail to comply with a new law.

Simon Milner, Director of Facebook's Public Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region, said that while the company in principle supports the provision of online fraud, it expresses concern over the provision of the "broad powers of the executive branch of Singapore"

CNN turned to Google and the BBC for comments.

& # 39; Serious problem & # 39;

The new Singapore law abides by the laws of governments around the world, but especially in Asia, using legitimate concerns about fake news and other issues to adopt new laws that, according to critics, are intended for

  Officials say that this the law is about security online. Experts say it's a Trojan horse for Internet censorship
In January, Fiji adopted a new online security critique that is considered a "Trojan horse" for censoring the Internet, and since 2017 in the Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia, concerns over " fake news "was used to justify new repressions on the media. Since then, Malaysia has abandoned its fake news law, but other countries continue to protect them as necessary to protect citizens online. In addition, China, the most experienced online censor in the world, has been worried about online disinformation to protect its broad control over freedom of speech.
Speaking on the anniversary event for Channel NewsAsia, Singapore Prime Minister Li said that fake news was "a serious problem for many countries."

He defended the new law by giving the government "power to attract online sources and platforms to liability if they spread deliberate falsehoods online."

"This includes the requirement to show corrections or to show false alerts on the Internet so that readers or viewers can see all parties and make their own opinion on this matter. In extreme and urgent cases, the law will also require an online news source to remove false news before irreparable damage has been inflicted, "he said.

" If we do not protect ourselves, the hostile parties will find a simple question to turn different groups on one another and cause mess in our society. "

Lee not mentioning about possible penalties in jail or large fines for spreading "fake news", or concerns that international media might have regarding work in Singapore under the new law.

Prime Minister's Cabinet and The Chinese Ministry of Laws did not respond to requests for commentary on this article.

K. Shanmugam, the Singapore lawmaker, said at a press briefing that the government would protect freedom of speech and stated that the removal orders would be rare, the Wall Street Journal reports. "I think that the reality of falsehood and hatred, as well as the harmful content on the Internet, is a reality that remains," he said. "We are dealing with it as well as possible."

  Singapore Prime Minister Li Xian Moon during the plenary session on the day of the opening of the G20 leaders' The 2018 summit in Costa Caldeo on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The "far-reaching" law

Although Lee and other government officials defended the bill as necessary to protect Singaporeans on the Internet. massive resistance of technological, media and human rights groups.

Jeff Payne, managing director of the Asian Coalition of the Internet – members of which includes Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and other large technical firms – said that the bill "gives the government of Singapore full freedom of action over what is considered true or false . "

"As the most far-reaching legislative one of its kind to date, this level of prosecution poses significant risks to freedom of speech and speech and can have serious consequences both in Singapore and throughout the world."

In its submission to parliament, the largest media organization in Singapore warned that a broad interpretation of "fake news" could lead to "fears among citizens about free expression of their views or participation in strong and constructive debates or even self-censorship of fearful news

Kirsten Khan, editor of the Singapore-based New Naratif news site, warned that the "anti-fake news bill" was really broad, giving broad powers to the government with limited deterrence and counterweight.

"It has an effect that allows the government to be the arbiter of the truth if they want it," she wrote in a newsletter on Monday.
New Naratif says he faces significant pressure from the Singapore government, which last year refused to allow him to register as a private company, through funding received from abroad, which the government stated was contrary to national interests.

Speaking before CNN, Khan said that the government wanted to adopt such legislation for some time.

"The problems that technology companies had with fake news and hate speech gave them a good opportunity to justify the need for such.

She assumed that the way of drafting the law could lead to the appearance of many ordinary Singaporeans, even if their posts do not technically contradict

"(the bill) gives ministers as much discretion as to require a correction. , lock and lock access. "Khan said, according to the law, people can challenge the order, but Han expressed concern about the ability of ordinary people to afford such litigation.

" How many Singaporeans will have the resources or desire to bring the matter to court and get […] the direction is canceled and restored post / article / blog in Facebook? "

  The Supertree can be seen during a light show. The state of the city is proud of its technology, but it often goes hand in hand with heavy censorship.

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