Is there more to Shanmugam’s ‘interrogation’ of Facebook exec than what meets the eye?

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A Singaporean writer has offered that Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam’s 3-hour questioning of a local Facebook executive might just be a smokescreen.

The writer comments come as videos of the heated exchange between the Minister and Facebook’s vice-president of public policy for Asia-Pacific, Simon Milner has been making rounds online.

Milner, who had been representing the social media giant in front of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods on Thursday, found himself in a verbal tussle with the Law Minister who took his organisation to task for the recent data breach scandal that has gripped headlines.

News broke last weekend that a data firm, Cambridge Analytica, with ties to US politicians reportedly accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge nor authorisation.

The data harvest occurred as around 270,000 people took a personality quiz online that gave a Cambridge University professor access to their data and their Facebook friends’ data. This information, which was initially collected for academic purposes according to Facebook, was later transferred to third parties in violation of Facebook policies.

Some netizens have praised the Law Minister for pressing the Facebook representative to answer for the data breach as videos such as the one below have been circulating online:

Others, however, have felt that there is more to this “interrogation” than meets the eye.

One such voice, writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, noted that while some videos online seem to suggest that the government is taking a tough stance against Facebook, “There is a different interpretation: two bedfellows trying to pretend that they never made out. One side spent money on targeted political marketing, the other happily sold your data.”

Sudhir added: “Do we know this for sure? No, but it seems highly likely that the PAP and of course Gov.sg, with its numerous sponsored videos telling you how wonderful life is in Singapore, have done so. Don’t forget that the latter spends your own tax dollars in order to advertise to you. (There are of course good informational reasons for policy advertising.)”

Pointing to news that one of several hopefuls tipped to be fielded as a People’s Action Party candidate in the next General Election is a top executive at Facebook, Sudhir wrote:

“The PAP has a long history of surreptitious political marketing online, for instance the team of anonymous bloggers under politician Baey Yam Keng. There is also some indication that it is aiming to recruit Facebook executives into its ranks. In today’s world if anybody from a data-rich tech firm enters politics…that should really worry you.
“Given the PAP’s dominance here, it is easy for this to descend into a partisan comment. It shouldn’t. Singaporeans and citizens everywhere, really, should demand much more transparency from all political parties about their online, targeted, psychographic political marketing.
“Political marketing has existed since forever, but there is something different about today’s beast. In a recent piece The New Yorker says “..the ethical difference between outright electoral corruption and psychographics is largely a matter of degree.”
“So instead of admiring Shanmugam’s questions, Singaporeans should be demanding that he, Sylvia Lim, Chee Soon Juan and all our other political leaders start providing us with much more information about these activities.
“The very essence of public discourse is under threat.”

Another writer, Daniel Yap who was one of the editors at the now-defunct socio-political website The Middle Ground, seemed to echo Sudhir’s views and opined: “FB has made our world, and our politics and governance, more connected yet less transparent.”

Netizens point out that potential PAP candidate is Facebook senior executive as FB posts mysteriously disappear

38 COMMENTS

  1. One has learnt a thing or two from the Americans : No business like show business. All the talk on fake news. The end line was written before the display. Just like asking the take on casinos. 10 out of 10 may have said no. The mind was made up. A public broadcast.

    • Last year, on my land line, gave time to 3 (government) surveys. Attended RC sessions on up-grading. Displayed at lift, several months and counting, ask for feedback. Revamp of government feedback Agency. Wrote to PMO’s office, gave suggestions. Will they listen?

  2. Both are snakes. Facebook is not that innocent. The fallout from the failure of the global elites (Illuminati?) to install their puppet Hillary continues. Why the sudden worldwide mainstream media-orchestrated attack on Cambridge Analytica and dragging Facebook through the mud?

  3. FB is being put on trial in every country where there are persecution and possibly genocide against minority groups such as Muslim like in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In Sri Lanka the govt has the presence of mind to ban social media for a week and to impose curfews in order to bring back public order and in the process save many Muslims’ property and life. Between fake news and using user’s psychographic data harvested from FB to swing elections – I am not sure which one is worse. If you love your neighbours and friends who are minorities, if your love democracy and humanity – you should ask for FB to be regulated like any other media as they are the perfect platform for preachers of hate and prejudice to find a virtual congregation as everyone is using pseudonyms and is anonymous and untraceable. FB collection of user data is also perfect for election hacking as you can hack into the minds of FB users during an election and tap into their fears and neuroticism to make them vote in a certain way.

    • You must be kidding. You really think FB has so much power? You are more naive than I thought. All of you are complicit to murder and election rigging because you use FB because it is cheap and free. YOU ARE A CHEAP SKATE & A SUSPECT. By clicking LIKE, commenting and sharing fake news and hate speeches you are as much an accomplice. YOU volunteer your personal information to FB and agree to all its policies – so that they can use it in whatever manner it like. Get off your high horse – you are too cheap to pay for a good service and now you want to complain about how bad a FREE service is? Come on there is NO FREE LUNCH. The day you join FB you already know that YOU ARE THE MERCHANDISE. THEY ARE GOING TO SELL YOUR PERSONAL DATA TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. This was all done with your permission. Amen!

    • One of the key reasons that Facebook was put on trial in some countries is because it provided a platform that negates the monopoly of information that many governments traditionally have. There is almost no intermediaries that could come in between the source and receiver of that information. This can be dual edge sword. While it provides an avenue for alternative legitimate views to be aired, the platform could also be abused by falsehood perpetuators, like a dictatorship. However openness and transparency will allow netizens to self regulate and police against such falsehoods.

  4. You must be kidding. You really think FB has so much power? You are more naive than I thought. All of you are complicit to murder and election rigging because you use FB because it is cheap and free. YOU ARE A CHEAP SKATE & A SUSPECT. By clicking LIKE, commenting and sharing fake news and hate speeches you are as much an accomplice. YOU volunteer your personal information to FB and agree to all its policies – so that they can use it in whatever manner it like. Get off your high horse – you are too cheap to pay for a good service and now you want to complain about how bad a FREE service is? Come on there is NO FREE LUNCH. The day you join FB you already know that YOU ARE THE MERCHANDISE. THEY ARE GOING TO SELL YOUR PERSONAL DATA TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. This was all done with your permission. Amen!

  5. Have the writers attended Senate Hearing in the US before ? You will be grilled the same and even worse . Come on ! Wise up ! I am concerned about the loss of freedom of speech too ! But some writers just don’t mature up and just yakety-yak ….

  6. And paid for by some politicians hoping to have a better idea how to manipulate people’s minds. After all, the best kind of propaganda is one that makes you think you came to that conclusion yourself. Yet sadly, it’s failing to gain them the support they think they will by manipulating feelings.

  7. IMHO. All the Selective Committee, mainly the questioner, needed to do is to corner & receive a “YES” from all SMPs; or from at least one to start with, that they agreed that falsehoods online are dangerous & agree with the minister to the legislation of online content on their platforms, then the censorship steamroller will be activated asap. The wicked job to regulate free cyberspace is done.

    #nogovermentincyberspaceyet

  8. Look at all the cynics here? When there are people standing up to the government, the intelligent people become sceptical. Or do they prefer these tech companies to quietly nod their heads and concede to the powers-to-be? No wonder after Roy, no one bothers to stand up anymore, it is a thankless job and the people you are fighting for ‘throw stones’ at you. So clever are some Singaporeans. They really deserve the government. They can’t wait to be muzzled!

    • This is just another fake muslim presidency wayang. The same old ploy, after that draconian laws for spoken truths but treated like fake news to the evil PAP regime helmed by a dishonorable clown.

      The sham adulterer stooge is schemingly plotting to silence all concerned citizens voicing out the huge mess that PAP has caused to this country.

  9. Dearest Mr Minister K Shanmugam’s, sometime you have to learn something in life and that is “TRUTH HURTS” and “Shame the Devil with Truth” and therefore it is because most of the posting are true and that you and your party memeber are embarking the Law on FalseHOOD and your own Party by itself is the Root to making false hood which you know very well the person Appointed in this Panel as Chairman is Charles Cheong and Root to Falsehood in the last election whereby he Mr Charles Cheong DESERVE ppl to think the town council lost of $22.5 million .

    OMG how STUPID can you all be to PUT that Clown as your Panel Chairman “Look at him on that Panel and his sly Face is like a chinese saying Smiling Tiger”

    The Chinese expression “smiling face tiger” (笑面虎) is defined in English at one website as “an outwardly kind but inwardly cruel person”. More broadly it doesn’t need to refer to someone who is actually positively cruel.

    You guys create 2 laws to protect the PAP should they have their down FALL:

    1. What is Personal Data?
    Personal data refers to data, whether true or not, about an individual who can be identified from that data; or from that data and other information to which the organisation has or is likely to have access. Personal data in Singapore is protected under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA).

    2. soon another Law deliberate online falsehoods, which can cross borders, spread rapidly and have serious, sometimes irreversible, consequences.

    They the PAP create this in order to protect their data/information should they loose power in GRC/Single Ward and also should they loose foothold as Government and doesn’t want anyone to know their DIRTY Laundry that the FACTS…Every Singaporean should know FULL well that our existing Laws are good enough to even cover for those “New Law they (PAP) are enacting to protect not just themselve but their Cronies and families and friends. Don’t believe me just do your own homework well and I says again the Chairman for Falsehood himself is bad enough.

    Rumours = Falsehood = Lies = Same Meaning lah Clown