Singapore Expresses Jealousy of Proper Dictatorships
Singapore is leading the charge against fake news, with a new anti-fake news law that went into effect on Wednesday.
Anyone—or any company or organisation—that puts out “false statements of fact” that are judged to be “prejudicial” against the national security or “public tranquillity” of Singapore or its relations with other countries – could face serious consequences.
Perhaps the law—which is called the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill—should have been called the Only Say Nice Things About The Government Or You Will Spend The Rest of Your Days in Prison Bill.
Under the law, government ministers can even ask for something they consider fake news to get taken down or have a correction put up. This includes having Facebook and Google to block the accounts of people doing fake news. The more substantial penalties include up to $36,000 USD fines and up to five years behind bars, so don’t expect a Trump state visit anytime soon…
In a major assault to robot rights and dignity, fake accounts and news generated by bots can also lead to up to $73,000 fines and ten years in prison for those behind it. Companies who engage in fake news are looking at over $700,000 fines.
Wait, wasn’t Singapore the nice sort of dictatorship? One where there are many Starbucks and clean pavements all over?
It is to an extent. Those accused of fake news can protest and appeal, but critics are worried the law will stifle free speech. They probably do have something to worry about considering Reporters Without Borders recently ranked Singapore 151 out of 180 countries on press freedom. It’s like Kim Jong Un of North Korea expressing support for prison reform: scepticism can occur.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), said the law is dangerous, and there’s a very good chance it “will be misused to clamp down on opinions or information critical of the government.”
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the third PM of the country who has reigned since 2004 and is the son of the first PM Lee Kuan Yew, said the bill is necessary to prevent “disorder” in Singapore’s multi-ethnic, diverse society.
Yes, real fake news is a problem. But a more significant issue could be when fake fake news, also known as real news, gets blocked by authoritarian governments to push down what they don’t like.
Just look at China banning any images of Winnie the Pooh because the bear looks too much like leader Xi.