Singapore starts landmark public hearing on fake news
SINGAPORE: Singapore yesterday began a public hearing on how to tackle the threat of fake news, with speakers suggesting measures ranging from blocking websites to balancing the interests of national security and free speech.
It is among the countries looking to introduce legislation to rein in fake news, a trend that has stirred concern that such laws could be used to exert government control over media.
A panel set up to consider possible measures, including legislation, drew 164 written responses from the public, a record for reactions to such a committee on any issue.
“There are worries about how legislation may stifle the freedom of speech,” Carol Soon, a specialist in communications and new media at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said.
There should be “fine balancing of the interests of protecting national security and public order, and the interests of enabling people to speak up and have meaningful discussion pertaining to governance”, she added.
She was among 79 people asked to speak in Parliament over the eight days set for the hearing, which would make it the longest in Singapore’s history.
Mathew Mathews, a social policy researcher at NUS, proposed that the government “stop the access to media sites which feature deliberate online falsehoods that threaten Singapore’s social harmony”.
Others felt such action would be ineffective.
“It is no longer possible to stop ‘fake news’ simply by blocking websites or publications because social media utilises person-toperson sharing,” said Andre Ahchak, communications director in the office of Singapore’s Roman Catholic archbishop.