Facebook Whistleblower Testifies Before 'Grand Committee On Disinformation'; Which Includes Countries That Lock People Up For Criticizing The Gov't

from the sure-that's-wise? dept

It didn't get as much press as some of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's other high profile talks to government inquisitors, but last week, Haugen testified before the rather Orwellian International Grand Committee on Disinformation. This is a bizarre "committee" set up by regulators around the world, but its focus -- and its members -- are kind of notable. Considering that tons of evidence shows that cable news is a much larger vector of disinformation flows to the general public, it seems notable that the "International Grand Committee on Disinformation" seems to only want to pay attention to online disinformation. I mean, it's right in the group's mission:

The rapid, unregulated expansion of social media is causing lasting harm to the world’s societies and democracies. So long as the technology giants who own these platforms are permitted to put profits ahead of people, malevolent actors will continue to be able to use social media to spread disinformation, spew hate, and disrupt elections.

Hmm. Only online? Only social media? No traditional media? No cable news? How... interesting.

Ah, but it gets even more interesting. Because the International Grand Committee on Disinformation this time included Singapore Parliamentarians who were very excited to show how bad social media is.

Amidst growing international convergence on the need to regulate the internet to protect vulnerable communities from online harms, two Singapore Members of Parliament participated in the fifth meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation (IGC5) in Brussels, Belgium on 9 November 2021. They were Ms Sim Ann, Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development; and Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, and Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of Health. Ms Sim and Ms Rahayu are also the co-leads of Singapore’s Sunlight Alliance for Action

Great. Great. The readout from these Singaporean Parliamentarians made it clear that they are very, very concerned:

The key themes of this year’s IGC meeting were (i) COVID-19 misinformation and (ii) online hate directed towards historically marginalised groups.

They also note that it's clear that Facebook must be regulated:

There was a clear consensus among the participants that self-regulation by social media companies has not been effective, and regulation is necessary. There was also general endorsement of Singapore’s position that beyond regulation, multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approaches such as the Sunlight Alliance for Action were necessary to combat online harms effectively.

Oh, great. So, let's see, how is Singapore fighting disinformation again? Oh, right, by jailing anyone who criticizes the Singaporean government.

In 2019, Singapore "regulated disinformation" online with its Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). And how exactly has that worked there? According to Human Rights Watch, it's been a total disaster for free speech and has been used against opposition politicians and critics of the government:

Ministers issued several correction notices to opposition politicians or political parties during the nine-day election campaign in July.

Singapore authorities also use existing laws to penalize peaceful expression and protest, with activists, lawyers, and online media facing prosecution, civil defamation suits, and threats of contempt of court charges. In March, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of activist Jolovan Wham for contempt of court for stating on Facebook that “Malaysia’s judges are more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implications.”

On July 28, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s nephew, Li Shengwu, was found guilty of contempt and fined S$15,000 (US$11,000) for a 2017 private Facebook post in which he said the Singapore government is “very litigious and has a pliant court system.”

Ah. Notably, while opposition party members kept getting notices about how they violated the law, the ruling party politicians were somehow free of such notices. How odd.

This same "regulation" against "disinformation" was used to block access to a website criticizing the Singaporean government's response to COVID.

So, yeah, sure, we can highlight the problems of misinformation online, but it's difficult to take the "International Grand Committee on Disinformation" particularly seriously when its members include nations that are using "disinformation" regulations as an excuse to suppress opposition political parties and those who criticize the government. It kind of undermines any credibility such a group might have.

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Filed Under: disinformation, fake news, frances haugen, international grand committee on disinformation, singapore
Companies: facebook

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  1. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 16 Nov 2021 @ 8:02am

    Why Social Media gets all the attention

    If you want to know why social media gets all the attention, all you have to do is watch Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part I:

    Count De Monet: Sire, I believe the peasants are revolting.
    King Louis XVI: You said it, they stink on ice!

    That is, they don't like the rabble having a voice; it's problematic to them ruling over them. This applies to the US as well, so don't think I'm playing favorites.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2021 @ 9:43am

    Vague laws on fake news and disinformation are being used to silence critics and activists that tell the truth about governments and corporations that bribe officials to get contracts or pullute the environment and evade tax
    The tory government is bringing in a commission to regulate online speech that is headed by an old newspaper editor who has only a basic knowledge of online services
    The new UK laws are very vague asking service to remove bad content fake news that might upset children even its legal
    Meanwhile newspapers and TV are not mentioned
    People like Murdoch are pushing to tangle up Facebook and online media in vague regulations that wlll reduce competition for their TV media empires eg remove content within 24 hours

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2021 @ 10:14am

    no bias there then! what a joke!!

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2021 @ 10:41am

    i love how "profits ahead of people" is only bad in one sector at this particular time only, and where most of the problem is "unregulated" individual people speaking.

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

  5. icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Nov 2021 @ 11:02am

    LEt ask the difference.

    TV vs the internet propaganda.
    Please acknowledge What propaganda is, and if you dont know, consider it the idea of seeing only 1 group/person/ideals, a 1 sided opinion with no debate or alternative.
    "WE ARE #1" over and over is propaganda, if there is no comparison. "5% unemployment" is propaganda if you dont know how it is created, and if you dont know the Base number it was created from, as in the Full population Or those 1/2 of the USA that can work or the total amount of jobs available.

    Lets see.
    Which can be controlled easier? TV, its localized and outside signals can be restricted even in small countries.
    Who Controls Most of either. TV, as the gov, can take it over and if the anchors dont do what the gov. wants, they get another one.
    Mass appeal? TV, it dont matter. as its the only thing you can watch FREELY, and the propaganda can be hidden easily. Internet can be blocked and restricted and monitored very easily.

    Full internet is interesting, as you can go out and find Like minded people with the same opinions or find Counter opinions to debate your side, and see if your opinions standup.
    As I said to a Conspiracy friend, if others arent listening, why talk about it. you scare them and they just walk away.
    Understanding how people see and think about subjects is Fantastic. but keeping an open mind, and being able to Think about the subject, isnt always easy. Its easy being on 1 side and Not willing to see anything else. Like a person taking trip across the USA and seeing all the changes and differences from State to state.

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

  6. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Nov 2021 @ 11:22am

    I grow weary of her world tour of someone give me a job to fix all of this.

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

  7. icon
    Norahc (profile), 16 Nov 2021 @ 12:00pm

    The more grandiose the name of the committee, the less effective it is.

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

  8. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Nov 2021 @ 12:48pm

    'How dare you allow people that aren't us to lie?!'

    Yeah, having singapore representatives in there kinda gives the game away, this isn't about disinformation in general but the fact that those in authority are upset that they can't control the narrative and much worse(from their perspective) that people have the ability to challenge them when they are the ones lying through their teeth.

    As the opening and final paragraph notes there most certainly can be discussions on lying and bias but if you're excluding from the discussion other major sources of both and including those that have weaponized systems claimed to combat those problems for their own personal gain you've utterly gutted any reason for people to think that you're coming to the table in good faith.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2021 @ 8:49pm


    Really "profits over people" is a completely fucking meaningless vague slogan of an accusation. Never has its use even hinted at what the accused was "supposed to have done". Anybody who uses it unironically is a propagandist or has vapor for brains.

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

  10. identicon
    me, 17 Nov 2021 @ 4:58am

    Youre seeing systemic abuse

    Just like the UAE does with interpol and its red notices over petty debt and the like.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2021 @ 3:30am

    Re: 'How dare you allow people that aren't us to lie?!'

    Hi, your pet Singaporean here.

    This is also true for the other side as well.

    They asxsume bad faith from the rabble. They probably know what Lenin did to the Romanovs.

    Let's also ignore the fact that the "alternative news site" is... odious, even on the best of days. For all the screaming everyone with an ounce of ethics in them do, Rupert Murdoch is still alive and News Corp is still making hella bank despite them actually peddling misinfo and disinfo.

    Oh, and let's not talk about the other local law that stifles dissent, the one that bypasses the COURTS. POFMA, at least, still has to go through the courts. The other law bypasses the courts entirely, and the tyrants refuse to name and shame the excuse behind the law.

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

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