First result of Singapore’s new “fake news” law was political censorship, of course

Who could have guessed?


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Those who launched the “fake news” buzzword back around 2016 to explain all the world's ills and their own failures likely did not count on – or care about – it becoming a crutch for every government or despot around the world looking for an easy way to stifle criticism, suppress free speech, and/or introduce draconian measures against political opponents.

In any case, when “fake news” gained prominence as a meaningful phrase, Singapore – a tiny and affluent island city-state – listened. Singapore's legislative branch acted efficiently, too – and since early October, the country has had a “fake news” law in effect.

Singapore wasted no time, either, in invoking the new law, just earlier this week. The target has been a post on Facebook made by an opposition politician.

The Washington Post seems to be surprised that the law “did not focus on misinformation sown by a foreign state or that aimed to provoke sectarianism” – but apparently simply on making sure the opposition would have no voice on Facebook to counter the government.

Who knew that once the genie of “fake news” had been released from the bottle and legitimized as not just a real but a priority problem on the web and in political discourse around the world – it would be used for whatever purpose anyone saw fit?

The Washington Post apparently never anticipated this, and now instead notes that Singapore' bill is “one of the world’s most far-reaching of anti-misinformation laws over the past few years, and it has sparked imitators.”

In Singapore, the first victim has been Brad Bowyer, a member of the Progress Singapore Party, who has been “asked” to step back on his claim made on Facebook on November 13 that Singapore's government had made a failed investment in the Turkish restaurant chain Salt Bae. He also made a suggestion that “it is time for change.”

That is reportedly all it took for the “fake news” law to kick into gear. Absurd though it may seem in some other country – not so in Singapore, where the ruling party, PAP, has been in power since 1959.

And who wants to fight “fake news” – and a government in power for 60 years?

Not Bowyer. On Monday, he acquiesced and “amended” his Facebook post – “writing at the top that ‘this post contains false statements of fact' and adding that readers should click on a government link for ‘the correct facts'.”

That would be the Singapore government's “fact-checking” operation.

“The government correction notice appears on the official website ‘Factually' – at more than 900 words, it is almost twice as long as Bowyer’s original post,” said the Washington Post.

Welcome to the Brave New “Fake News” World.

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]
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