Singaporean Government Creates Fake News To Push Fake News Legislation

from the home-team-refs dept

The government of Singapore is working its way towards regulating "fake news." This is already a problem, as no government that has tackled this issue has been able to define what "fake news" is, other than news the government doesn't like. A government granting itself the power to unilaterally remove competing narratives is something that never goes out of style, and those picking up the "fake news" torch from the Twitter feed of the leader of the free world tend to be of the authoritarian variety.

The government's "Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods" sought input from citizens on the proposed legislation. Then it recast that input by memorializing it in a way that downplayed, if not excised completely, any input that didn't align with the government's views.

Freelance journalist Kirsten Han stated her opinion on several matters during the committee's hearing, only to find out the government's prepared summary of the session portrayed her dissenting opinions as roughly concurring with the committee's views.

I generally argued that there should be no new legislation that would police or censor content, such as legislation that might allow the government to issue takedown orders, as Singapore already has plenty of legislation that can deal with online falsehoods or content that incite social disharmony or exert undue influence on elections. I also argued for the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act in Singapore — one of the recommendations I made in my written submission.

I was horrified to see my views so drastically misrepresented within the Summary of Evidence.

Yes, the committee on fake news created fake news. The summary of the committee hearing -- which will presumably be used to inform legislators about potential issues with a fake news law -- is a misrepresentation of what actually happened during the hearings. Here's one example from Han's post, which should be read in its entirety to gain a full appreciation of the committee's editorializing of meeting minutes. (The committee's phrasing is in italics, with Han's response in bold.)

i. 92% of Singaporeans, at face value, supported more effective laws, including to remove falsehoods. Ms Han did not support the need for more effective legislation as there were existing powers and she accepted that she may be out of step with the majority of the population.

I was asked about the REACH survey a few times during the session. Firstly, I questioned the survey, and said that I did not accept the survey’s results at face value. This was also reflected in Ms Bertha Henson’s blog post on the session.

While I do accept that perhaps I might be “out of step” with the majority, I am once again registering for the record that I question the survey and its results.

Another point of discussion was rewritten by the committee to make it appear as though Han had admitted some of her other writing was possibly "fake news."

vi. On her article in relation to the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act, she agreed that it could be interpreted as being incomplete or misleading.

I did not agree that my article could be interpreted as being incomplete or misleading. I stand by my article. I accepted that Mr Tong had a different opinion, as is his right, and advocated engagement and discussion over conflicting interpretations.

Rather than leave this open to interpretation or allow the committee to turn it into an our-word-against-hers "victory," Han has also uploaded clips of her responses to the committee's questions to YouTube (these are included in her Medium post), where anyone can compare the camera's record of the hearing with the committee's rose-tinted recollections.

Speech regulation predicated on vague terminology is always a vehicle for government censorship. The committee overplayed its hand here, though, offering up pre-censorship censorship of the official record in hopes of showing no one was all that opposed to letting the Singaporean government control what's said about it.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 4:03am

    Fake News has been a thing for a while, and while it never looked towards the leaders they ignored it.
    Chemtrails, Anti-Vaxxers, Flat Earth, Man walked with dinosaurs, the earth is 100 years old, anything on Infowars....

    Now that they have discovered that any reporting they don't like can be called "fake news" and be suppressed they have yet another handy tool to hide what they are doing from public view, even to the extreme of are you going to believe her or what we say she said?

    They want to protect their image & power, rather than act in honorable ways in service to the citizens... lets just call me getting caught drunk with a dead hooker fake news & disappear the story. Believers will claim anyone repeating the story is just trying to spread bad rumors to make us look bad!!!

    Humanity has failed to learn the obvious lesson - Just because you saw it on the internet doesn't mean its true.
    It costs the economy billions of dollars in advance fee scams, love scams, nigerian price e-mails because despite every warning & every segment on all the talk shows... people believe the words on the screen more than anyone else. Those hundred other people were just suckers or didn't wait long enough... I'm smarter than them.

    Everyone lies.
    Everyone seems to forget this.
    The only person you can fully trust is yourself (and somedays that's sketchy).
    But in the gogo press button get answer & move on world people never bother to look anything up from more than 1 source. This is really horrific when they pass stupid laws to deal with imaginary problems & create much more worse problems in the end.

    We deserve better, but to get it we need to learn to trust but verify what they tell you. Learn to look at more than one source, seek out the opposing viewpoint on the same topic... the truth will be somewhere in the middle of the 2 stories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 5:40am

      Re:

      Fake News has been a thing for a while, and while it never looked towards the leaders they ignored it.

      I think it has been a thing for rather longer than you think, and I think the leaders haven't ignored it so much as created it. It is well worth reading this wikipedia article.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinoviev_letter

      The resonances with the current situation are quite startling.

      Learn to look at more than one source, seek out the opposing viewpoint on the same topic... the truth will be somewhere in the middle of the 2 stories.

      Actually the second part is usually not good advice. Quite often one side is wholly wrong - and often not the side you might have initially expected.

      During the Brexit referendum the BBC frequently quoted a detailed analysis of some issue from the remain side and followed it with a flat, unsubstantiated, denial from the leavers. That kind of "balance" is quite destructive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Apr 2018 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re:

        Before Twitter locked me out, I often engaged people with views different than my own. I didn't flip my entire view on things, but I liked understanding why this group of people was on the other side.

        You can't trust the media, as your BBC anecdote shows. But the media got rid of the idea of fact checking & just puts things on the air to keep people engaged, even if it means ignoring the truth being stabbed in a dark corner.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:48am

      Re:

      Learn to look at more than one source, seek out the opposing viewpoint on the same topic... the truth will be somewhere in the middle of the 2 stories.

      There are often more than 2 sides to a story and the truth is often not in the middle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Yes, there are many sides to everything.

        Some folk only see two sides because all they see is their side and not their side.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Apr 2018 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        And sometimes there aren't even 2 sides.

        Each side has bias that gets into things.
        White rapist is called a young man with a promising future.
        Black motorist executed, they go looking for a past criminal record or a FB photo to make him fit the thug role.
        Amazingly people don't notice this & just nod along with it.

        The truth might not be in the middle, but it would be nice if people stopped assuming their side was the absolute truth & even considered what is on the other sides...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OA (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      Fake News has been a thing for a while, and while it never looked towards the leaders they ignored it. Chemtrails, Anti-Vaxxers, Flat Earth, Man walked with dinosaurs, the earth is 100 years old, anything on Infowars....

      Your use of "Fake News" as a weaponized label undermines your whole comment. It appears you are doing the same thing you claim to object to.

      It costs the economy billions of dollars in advance fee scams, love scams, nigerian price e-mails because despite every warning & every segment on all the talk shows... people believe the words on the screen more than anyone else. Those hundred other people were just suckers or didn't wait long enough... I'm smarter than them.

      You clearly don't understand the problem or its scope. I don't feel like doing a full account, so I'll try at a summary. Its not truly a function of smarts, but more of conformity. "Smarter" people, often coincidentally, take on attitudes that causes them to resist conformity in more scenarios than others would. Conformity is not a bad thing if done thoughtfully and required of others responsibly. Unfortunately, that's not the reality. One. As a society we increasingly punish a lack of arbitrary conformity. Two. Our 'fraud based economy' (quoting myself) is buffeted by the phenomenon that I summarize using the seemingly self-contracting term 'legal scams'. [Scams don't cost the economy billions, scams MAKE 'the economy' billions.]

      People fall for scams because they are taught, required and conditioned to tolerate and think in ways that make them vulnerable to other scams. Of course, this also incentivizes more scams and scammers... That said, one may now recognize that anti-scam messaging is itself arbitrary and possibly mostly insincere. Who is guilty? Those who are 'caught' and recognized as scammers? Who should be punished, and how?...

      Everyone lies. Everyone seems to forget this. The only person you can fully trust is yourself (and somedays that's sketchy).

      Meaningless.

      ...but to get it we need to learn to trust but verify what they tell you.

      Seriously?

      Learn to look at more than one source, seek out the opposing viewpoint on the same topic... the truth will be somewhere in the middle of the 2 stories.

      Noooooo. Truth (notice I didn't write "the truth") may be completely unrelated to either viewpoint. A discussion based on opposing viewpoints usually means a limitation to the scope of tolerated arguments. If a discussion's scope is arbitrary or improper then the relevant truths or a reasonable way forward won't be represented. [Perhaps this comment was related to the 'your side, my side and the truth' cliche.]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Noooooo. Truth (notice I didn't write "the truth") may be completely unrelated to either viewpoint. A discussion based on opposing viewpoints usually means a limitation to the scope of tolerated arguments.

        I suppose that with "alternative truth" you can have as many truths as you want. Hey, it's not "fake news", it's "alternative news", huh?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Apr 2018 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re:

        "You clearly don't understand the problem or its scope."

        8 years, 6+ Million, 2 indictments....
        Yep totes don't understand legal scams.

        But then I haven't conformed to society for a really long time, because I find it boring. The problem boils down to people who just assume everything they are told is the full truth & never question anything.

        Most people when you mention the latest Lone Wolf terror plot the FBI stopped talk about how great it is they got him. They have no idea the FBI has a history of taking people with mental illness and setting them up to get headlines to the extent a Judge lambasted them from the bench for their antics.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:17am

    Beware

    Of course the government will probably put in some nice wording to make any new law look innocuous - but experience shows that these words are often ignored or misinterpreted by the government (or its officials) when a real case arises.

    The content of the article - and in particular the way that Kirsten Han was treated - do nothing to dissipate this worry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gorshkov (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:34am

    Actually the second part is usually not good advice. Quite often one side is wholly wrong - and often not the side you might have initially expected.

    Really? So please, tell me - how do you possibly know which side is the "wholly wrong" one, if you only hear one side of the story?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:31am

      Re:

      err - read what I said more carefully - the second part - the bit about the truth being "in the middle" is not good advice - the first part "read more than one account" is certainly good advice - and I never argued against that!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:59am

        Re: Re:

        I'm guessing he read "seek out the opposing viewpoint" as being the second part, and "the truth will be somewhere in the middle" as being the third part.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 6:44am

    The worst kind of fake news is war propaganda, the stench of which has been particularly bad the last week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:29am

    Reminds me of the stories of people who say that voter fraud is a huge problem who then commit voter fraud just to prove "see it can be done!".

    (We have more states in the US then there are people convicted of voter fraud in the last decade. And several of those convictions were by people who committed it just to prove it can be done. Yet that doesn't stop people from obsessing over the nearly non-existent crime as if it's running rampant and ruining our elections)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:30am

    This article will be declared 'Fake News' by someone.

    How long will it take the Singaporean Government to declare that their new law has effect worldwide? I expect that Techdirt will receive a takedown notice from them for this article. This year, next year, the year after? Don't know, but I expect it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:44am

    "leader of the free world"

    In reference to the POTUS, I do not think this is applicable anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jigsy, 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:50am

    I recently read that reading fake news increases penis size...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 7:03pm

      Re:

      Did you read that on Fox News?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2018 @ 1:35am

      Re: chutzpah

      "I live in the UK. I am a lolicon, I have loli; and a very large majority of it is explicit. So I am in fact openly admitting that I am breaking the law."

      WOW, I don't think I ever came across an open pedophile running a child porn oriented website. Now I'd better scrub my browser history and cached images, since even visiting such sites could get me in trouble where i live.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2018 @ 5:41am

        Re: Re: chutzpah

        >blog where he apparently organizes his thoughts
        >has no images on it

        The fuck you talkin bout Willis?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 18 Apr 2018 @ 5:54am

          Re: Re: Re: chutzpah

          At a guess, maybe this is a comment on the blog linked to in the hyperlink represented by the name "Jigsy" in the comment to which he(?) was replying?

          I haven't bothered following that link, so I have no idea whether the blog says anything like what is quoted or is anything like what is described, but the only other alternatives I can think of are that that reply was entirely misplaced or is pure "insert an entirely unrelated subject" trolling...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 9:02am

    just the sort of thing every government is doing! the whole aim is to get 24/7 surveillance on everyone as long as they aren't members of the government, politicians in general, rich, famous, powerful or friends of any of the above! as for us mere mortals, we're just being turned into slaves to be at the beck and call of ALL of the above, with no rights at all in any respect!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2018 @ 10:33am

    Terrorism, children, copyright, crime in general, fake news lead to internet censorship and the destruction of civil liberties ("freedom of conscience, freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to security and liberty, freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to equal treatment under the law and due process, the right to a fair trial, and the right to life").

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SarahBit, 17 Apr 2018 @ 12:32am

    Re

    Yes, the worst kind of fake news is war propaganda, but we invented this. You have fake news in economy or cryptocurrency in order to make people buy crypto for dollars. Did you see the latest news that Soros is going to invest big money in some coins?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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