Nas opens the episode by saying, “I hate fake news,” in his signature emphatic style, adding that last week he got “attacked” by “a very well-architectured and well-targeted fake news campaign” that accused him of being a spy for Israel.
The blogger quipped that if this were true, he would have a lot more money.
He said in the introduction to the episode that while a lot of people talk about fake news, not enough is said about the solution to the problem, which led him to introduce Mr Shanmugam, “one of the best lawyers in Asia,” as well as POFMA, the country’s law to counter online falsehoods, since “in Singapore, they’ve created a law to solve fake news.”
I know Fake News is a big problem.So you should hear this episode on Nas Talks on Spotify.I talked with Singapore's…
“How exactly are they doing it? Is it against freedom of speech?…And how can your country also get a fake news law…” Nas said, by way of giving listeners a foretaste of the upcoming discussion, underlining how “relevant” the topic is for everyone.
Nas introduces Mr Shanmugam as “the man fixing fake news,” which the minister gently corrects as “the man trying to deal with fake news.”
Playing the “devil’s advocate” Nas then says that “Fact never existed,” quoting Yuval Noah Harari who said we live in a “post-truth society.”
The Law Minister, who calls himself a practical man, answers back, “Vaccines are good for you. When you’re sick, you need medicine… and the earth is not flat…the reality of mathematics and physics are not fake news.”
He then went on to say that the worst thing that fake news can do is cause riots and deaths, as it has done in Sri Lanka.
“It makes people doubt everything in their society,” he sighs.
And when Nas looks for someone to blame, Mr Shanmugam tells him that the target is fake news itself, not the people behind it.
Because fake news is so widespread, it cannot be got rid of. Therefore the solution is to attach a “health label” to it so that “when you…or your mother reads it,” there’s a warning that says this is NOT the truth, as well as a direction to where readers can find the truth.
“The way to protect democracy and to deal with fake news is to give more news and more info…and not to censor, as much as possible,” Mr Shanmugam told Nas.
The minister and the blogger then go through several examples of dealing with fake news, the POFMA way. The opposition to POFMA the Minister adds, is due largely to misperception. It is not censorship or the Government acting as arbiters of truth, he says, but merely a ‘health warning.’
The two also talk about Alex Tan, who has spread fake news against Nas as well as the government. Mr Shanmugam told the blogger that in this case, he can apply POHA, the act protecting people against harassment.
At one point, Nas asks, “What if I say that Covid-19 is perfectly safe?”
Mr Shanmugam laughs and answers “I think we may have to put out a public health warning on you. And people will understand why. People won’t have much sympathy for you.”
The blogger also laughs and answers, “People don’t have much sympathy for me anyway.”
At the end of the episode, Nas thanked Mr Shanmugam and told him, “I’m the guy who wants to double POFMA!,” reiterating his disdain for fake news.
Nas’ podcast with Mr Shamugam can be listened to in full on Spotify. —/TISG