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Media Literacy Council booklet distributed to Primary 1 students classifies satire as fake news

The MLC-produced booklet entitled 'Get Smart with Sherlock' still brands satire as fake news despite an earlier promise by the MLC to review its publications

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The Media Literacy Council (MLC), a Government-linked body, has been criticised for listing satire as fake news yet again, after a netizen shared screenshots of a booklet on fake news the authority recently circulated to Primary One students. The booklet claims that satire is a type of fake news.

Earlier this month, the MLC published a post on its social media channels that highlighted six “types of fake news”. These were false context, imposter content, manipulated content, misleading content, clickbait, and satire.

The MLC swiftly drew intense backlash for branding satire – a literary genre – as a type of fake news. Netizens accused the MLC of spreading misleading information and asked the body to retract the post and issue an apology.

The organisation later apologised for branding satire as fake news and promised to review its material. The MLC also admitted that Singapore’s anti-fake news law – the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) – does not extend to opinions, criticisms, satire or parody.

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Days after the MLC apologised, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam confirmed that “the suggestion that satire is covered by POFMA is erroneous.” He said:

“I can understand what the MLC was trying to say. But either they made a mistake, or it didn’t get said accurately…That is unfortunately not an accurate representation of Pofma.”

Yesterday (17 Sept), Reddit user u/ongcs shared screenshots of a MLC-produced booklet entitled ‘Get Smart with Sherlock’ that was circulated to the Primary One students in his son’s school. It is believed that the booklet was circulated to students in primary and secondary schools.

The booklet proved that MLC materials making the “erroneous” suggestion that satire is fake news are still being circulated in Singapore. Branding satire as a type of fake news, the booklet claimed: “Satire uses humour or exaggeration to make fun of hot-topic issues, which may fool people unfamiliar with the website or event mentioned.” 

Sharing several screenshots of excerpts from the MLC booklet, u/ongcs wrote: “My boy told me that, the teacher just handed them the book, without any further instruction. Neither did teacher read the book together with them, or explain to them. I don’t blame the teacher. Probably the instructions from the relevant organization is just “distribute to all the students”.”

The screenshots u/ongcs shared show that the booklet lists “confirmation bias, continued influence effect, illusory truth effect, backfire effect and echo chamber” as some of the reasons why people may fall for fake news.

Asserting that the consequences of fake news are “causing unnecessary fear, wasting important resources, damaging the reputation of innocent people and creating tension between racial and religious groups,” the MLC booklet advised readers to “check sources, find the motive, and confirm with fact-checkers” when confronted with potential fake news.

u/ongcs wrote: “Initially, I just wanted to make fun of the “satire” part of the content. However, the more I read, the more I feel that this is a half-f!@#ed effort from the relevant organization.”

Pointing out that he has no issue with fake news education and said he appreciates efforts to help children differentiate real news from the false news, u/ongcs said: “But, this book gave me the impression that, someone or some people in this project, just want to hit his/her target/KPI.”

He asserted: “If they are really serious in educating lower primary kids “fake news”, they would have planned another version of this same book, with much easier/lighter contents for lower primary kids to understand, or at least to engage them…

“I tried, and failed, and gave up. How do I explain to my P1 boy the meaning of “Confirmation Bias” or “Echo Chamber” or “Illusory Truth Effect”?

The Media Literacy Council has yet to apologise or comment on this latest gaffe. View screenshots from the MLC booklet shared by u/ongcs HERE.

Media Literacy Council did not misunderstand satire, they misunderstood literacy

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