Singapore’s ‘fake news’ bill compared to France’s and Germany’s, netizens analyse

Netizens discuss how the government would address false statements in contrast to how it is done in France or Germany.

Photo: YT screengrab

Singapore – On April 7 (Sunday), Reddit user u/dudez77 uploaded a screenshot of a table from The Edge Singapore, issue 876 showing a comparison of Singapore, France and Germany’s “fake news” bill.

The table illustrated the differences in how the government would address false statements in contrast to France or Germany.

The following are some of the main points covered by the post.

Point number 1: Who qualifies fake news

According to the Online Falsehoods and Manipulation bill which was read in Parliament on April 1, any minister will be able to decide whether or not a statement of fact is false and against public interest.

In France, a judge is appointed to qualify “fake news.”

Furthermore, in Singapore, “a false statement of fact” is to be defined by the government from which a demand for correction, removal of the offending post, or pursuance of legal action could be issued.

Point number 2: Motive and purpose

The table gave a condensed version of what constitutes the communication of false statements according to the Bill, stating that “a person must not communicate a statement knowing or having reason to believe that it is a false statement of fact that is prejudicial to the security of Singapore; to public health, public finances, public safety or public tranquillity; to the friendly relations of Singapore with other countries; or could influence the outcome of an election; incite feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups of persons; or diminish public confidence in the performance of any duty of or exercise of power by the government.”

Meanwhile, France’s law regarding fake news was established to prevent foreign state-owned media companies from influencing French democracy during election periods with false information and propaganda, stated the table.

Point number 3: Time frame

No time limitations were indicated in Bill; therefore, if passed, the law is in motion at all times. In France, appeals to stop “false information” could only be made during the three months before an election.

Point 4: Violations and Penalties

It is stated in the Bill that an individual deemed to violate the proposed law could be fined up to S$50,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both. The use of an inauthentic online account to communicate false statements could face fines up to S$100,000, jail up to 10 years, or both.

Individuals who solicit, receives or agrees to receive financial or material benefits for rendering services to the communication of false statements of fact may also be penalised. Actions could also be taken against online platforms and service providers such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Whatsapp, news outlets, and digital marketing or advertising intermediaries.

Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, or Netzdurchsetzunggesetz (NetzDG), passed in 2017 and implemented fully on January 1, 2018, is only focused on social networks with no fewer than two million registered users in Germany, noted the illustration. This includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

It is the user’s task to flag and report offensive posts from which proper checks will be conducted. The online platforms could be fined up to €50 million (S$76 million) for failing to comply and remove “obviously illegal” the content within 24 hours.

Read the full post below:

Photo: Reddit screengrab

Reddit user dmjr noted the “big difference” among the “fake news” bill and law:

Photo: Reddit screengrab

Potatetoe_tractor provided more insight on the French/German approach in response to milo_peng’s comment that their legislation is on the other extreme. The user wrote:

Photo: Reddit screengrab
Photo: Reddit screengrab
Photo: Reddit screengrab

Read related: Human Rights Watch calls for “immediate withdrawal” of Singapore’s proposed fake news laws