Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has taken a stand against fake news, cautioning members of the public to check whether the sources of stories are reliable and legitimate before they share news.
Asserting that “each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread of fake news,” the Minister pointed to a viral post falsely stating that religious leader Ustaz Pasuni Maulan has passed away as an example of fake news. He wrote:
“A viral post stating that Ustaz Pasuni Maulan has passed on has been making its rounds this weekend. This is an example of fake news, which has been prevalent in recent times. In this instance, the fake news was aimed at getting the community to mourn a great loss. In future, however, other posts that try to disrupt Singapore’s social harmony may arise.
“Before sharing any information or post, do check its source. When in doubt, do not share the information until the story has been validated by a credible, legitimate source.”
In Malay, the Minister added that such fake news is a rising problem with the prevalent use of smartphones and that such fake news could potentially disrupt the harmony in Singapore. He said:
“This fake news is trying to make society mourn someone’s departure. Fortunately this time many wake up and fix it…However, the next fake news may cause anger among the people until some take action and disrupt the harmony that we enjoy today.
“The spreading of fake news is a specific problem with the use of a rising smart phone. It needs to be controlled. Society plays an important role to stop the spread of fake news. We have a choice whether to spread the information given or otherwise.”
Mr Masagos also cautioned members of the public not to spread stories “just because your friends also do so.”
Last month, Parliament passed an anti-fake news law in the form of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). The new law, which will provide the government with powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest, intends to give ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and whether to take action.
After the law was passed, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam clarified that netizens who unknowingly share fake news in good faith will not be jailed. Asserting that there is “no criminal liability” and “no civil liability” for those who share fake news “in good faith,” he said:
“If you receive something and in good faith you forward it, as most people do, you share, you like it – no problem. There is no criminal liability, there is no civil liability. At most, you will receive a correction.
“So you don’t even need to worry about jail and so on. That is for people who are sitting there, actively creating the false news. Sometimes to make money, sometimes to create trouble, you put out a falsehood – those are the only people, most people are not like that.”