GS Paper 4:
Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019
Context: Singapore recently notified the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019.
Key highlights of the law:
- It will enable the government to order social media websites to take down posts deemed to be false.
- The Act’s definition of a falsehood is limited to a statement of fact and does not cover opinions, criticisms, satire or parody.
- Any minister from the government has the authority to instruct the “Competent Authority” if he believes a false statement of fact has been communicated in Singapore or if he believes it is in the public interest to issue a direction against the statement.
- The minister will need to explain why the statement is false.
- A set of binding “Codes of Practice” for technology companies covering three areas — inauthentic online accounts and bots, digital advertising transparency and de-prioritising falsehoods — will be applied to “digital advertising intermediaries” or Internet intermediaries”.
- Once a minister identifies a falsehood, the individual is issued a “Stop Communication Direction” to be complied with within a specified time period. Only when the falsehood is spread with malicious intent do criminal sanctions apply.
- If found guilty of communicating statements believed to be false to the extent that such a statement is likely to jeopardise the security of the country, influence election outcomes, incite feelings of enmity or hatred etc, he/she will be liable to pay a fine of $50,000 or be imprisoned for not more than five years or both.
Concern over the law:
Technology companies and rights groups have expressed concerns and worried because this law will hurt innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem. They argue that the law imposes limitations on free speech.
What led to the government taking this step?
False statements made online have the potential to divide society, spread hate and weaken democratic institutions.
The law aims to prevent the “communication of false statements of fact in Singapore and to enable measures to be taken to counteract the effects of such communication”; to suppress the “financing and promotion of false statements of fact”, and to enable measures such that politically motivated paid content is disclosed.
Sources: Indian Express.