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Facebook and Twitter reaffirm commitment to work with Singapore against spread of fake news




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The Government’s Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods made 22 recommendations on how to deal with “fake news,” as it released its executive summary report last week. The report, which emphasised the need for legislation, was put together after members of the public were invited to share written submissions and give oral testimony at public hearings on how the “fake news” could be handled, six months ago.

Among other points, the report pointed to the content policies of social media giants and said that official legislation is needed to counter the spread of online falsehoods since Facebook, Twitter and Google have “a policy of generally not acting against content on the basis that it is false”.

Facebook has since responded by pledging its commitment to working with the Singapore Government.

Promising support to the Singapore government and asserting that they “share the same commitment to reduce the spread of deliberate online falsehoods”, Facebook also made a point of citing measures they already have in place.

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A spokesperson said, “Over the last year and a half, we have invested in technology and people to combat false news and disrupt attempts to manipulate civic discourse.”

Facebook’s methods involve 1) the removal of accounts proved to be fake, 2) the obstruction of financial motivation behind online falsehoods, 3) the scaling down of posts linked to to low-quality web pages, 4) partnerships with “threat intelligence experts”, and 5) the promotion of “digital and news literacy”.

Facebook also said that they have taken action in the months following the Select Committee hearings.

According to the spokesperson, Facebook implemented a new policy which dictates the introduction of more ads transparency and the removal of fake news that has “the potential to lead to offline violence”: “This effort will never be finished and we are committed to working together with the government, industry, news publishers, and our community on this.”

Fellow social network giant Twitter, who was also named by the Select Committee’s report, thanked the committee “for their inclusive engagement” and said it appreciated the work that went into making the recommendations.

Twitter also verbalised its commitment to “keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world”, saying that they “care deeply about the issues of misinformation as well as disinformation and their potentially harmful effects on the civic and political discourse that is core to our mission.”

According to Twitter, the issue of online falsehoods is a complex one, and to combat it,  “societies across the world have to work in concert to understand and better assess trends in the information ecosystem.”

It added: “We look forward to the Singapore Government’s continued engagement with industry on the full range of approaches to address these issues.”

The 22 recommendations made by the Select Committee did not specify laws or give details on measures to be taken but instead reinforced 1) the need for public education, 2) the improvement of fact checking, and 3) the disruption of the spread of online falsehoods.

The laws, which could include blocking access and removing false content, could also hold back revenues from digital advertising to those guilty of spreading false news. Criminal action could also be pursued for graver cases of fake news dissemination.

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