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Google raises concerns about Singapore’s fake news law

Google has highlighted that Singapore’s fake news law will hurt innovation and growth of the “digital information ecosystem”, adding that the intensity of the debate over the law has highlighted the need for a full and transparent public consultation. The law allows ministers, instead of courts, to be arbiters of falsehoods and take down content, apart from also pushing platforms to share a “correction” countering what the ministers may deem to be false.

Singapore passed a fake news law on May 9th, looking to address “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. The full statement that a Google spokesperson sent MediaNama reads as follows:

Misinformation is a challenging issue and we are working hard to address it. The intensity of the debate over the last few weeks has highlighted the need for a full and transparent public consultation. We remain concerned that this law will hurt innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem. How the law is implemented matters, and we are committed to working with policy makers on this process.”

What Singapore’s Fake News law enables

Under the law, any minister can issue a correction direction or a stop communication direction via a competent authority, if a falsehood is being spread and if the “the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to issue the Direction”. The minister may appoint under Section 6 of the law, a Competent Authority (CA) who issue instructions on behalf of the minister. It can be group of people forming a statutory board or a government officer.

A correction notice needs to state that the falsehood is, in fact, a falsehood, or that the material in question contains falsehood. It can also require the issuee to publish the correction notice on a specified website, and further for it to be published in a specified newspaper or other print publication. The correction direction, can also require that issuee to place the correction notice in “the specified proximity” to every copy of the falsehood.

It also allows for a “Stop Communication” order, which requires the issuee to stop communication of the falsehoods (and even any statement substantially similar to it) within a specified time, and prevent the falsehood from being available to Internet users, it also requires them to remove the falsehood from a website or domain. It also requires them to issue a correction notice to a specified person and may require it to be published in print as well.

The fake news law also institutes a code of practice for intermediaries, which the Competent Authority may issue, including the responsibility to:

  • detect, control and safeguard against coordinated inauthentic behaviour and any other misuse of online accounts;
    give prominence to credible sources of information
  • not give prominence to declared websites or websites against which Part 3 or 4 notices have been issued.
  • Carry out due diligence measures before agreeing to facilitate paid political content, to detect inauthentic coordinated behaviour, and to safeguard against misrepresentation of the identity of any user
  • maintain and make available a record of all paid political content
  • Report any suspicious or knowledge of misuse of its services to the CA
  • setup a channel by which the Competent Authority can notify it of a Part 3 or Part 4 declaration
  • Keep records regarding compliance with the codes of practice and/or provide them to the CA at a specified frequency

More details here.

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