Unless you have not been following the biggest news of the week, you would have heard about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill since its introduction in Parliament on 1 April.
According to Shanmugam, the Bill aims to protect society against the threat of fake news and misinformation. It also provides for criminal sanctions against those who deliberately spread falsehoods to cause harm, and also gives ministers the power to order corrections or removal of online falsehoods.
Before we start gathering at Hong Lim Park to protest against the restriction of the freedom of speech, we help to simplify the technical bits to explain what the Bill is about:
1) The fake news bill targets wrong facts, not opinions
Impression of the law: The new law aims to censor views and opinions of Singaporeans, especially comments that are negative towards the PAP.
What the law really means: The law targets factual falsehoods which harms the public interest. So we can continue to express our views and criticise the Government if we want to. In particular, the new law aims to targets people who “put out falsehoods to create mayhem, to create trouble, to create anger and hopefully violence”, and not the everyday opinions of Singaporeans. Basically it means that it will go after those who spread wrong facts to stir shit.
So as long as you are not factually wrong, the new law won’t stop you from saying what you want.
This demo of what you can do and what you cannot do by Mediacock quite funny:
2) The Government will not be the Arbiter of Truth
Impression of the law: The Government will decide what is the truth as the ministers can direct people to post corrections or take down content.
What the law really does:: Shanmugam said this is “completely not the case”. The rationale for giving ministers the power to make the initial decision on a falsehood is because there is a need to act fast to prevent its spread. Because information spreads so fast on social media nowadays. But the Minister’s decision can be challenged in court and overturned if the decision is wrong. So, the courts will ultimately decide what is true and what is false.
So yes guys, as long as you are not deliberately passing or creating fake information to stir shit or cause chaos in society, we can just continue our coffee shop talk like normal. Guess that is not going to stop our mothers from sharing random Whatsapp messages to us too.
If want to find out more about the fake news bill, can also listen to how Shanmugam summarised it in his speech in parliament: