Several netizens have disputed Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Edwin Tong’s recent claim that “most citizens” want strong fake news laws.
In an article published by the national broadsheet, Mr Tong responded to criticisms of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) – an industry association made up of leading internet and technology companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, eBay, Expedia and Paypal.
Criticising the “extraordinary amount of power [that is put] in the hands of individual ministers” and the “limited scope of judicial oversight and the lack of robust safeguards in the appeal process,” AIC expressed “strong reservations on specific provisions – reservations that are shared by veteran journalists, legal experts, academics and human rights representatives.”
AIC’s managing director Jeff Paine wrote that it is believed that the bill “will impact freedom of expression and curtail the rights of individuals, Singaporean or otherwise, to freely express opinions and participate in informed discussions, even debates, that are necessary to ensure executive transparency and accountability,” and said that the vague wording of parts of the bill “creates room for a highly subjective application of the law.”
In response, ruling party politician Edwin Tong rubbished Mr Paine’s claims and said that the Government is “confident that there is broad and deep support among an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans for laws to tackle online falsehoods.”
Asserting that “the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans want strong laws to deal with online falsehoods” and that only a small group is “crying wolf” over the bill, he said: “Crying wolf repeatedly gets no attention.”
He added: “The Government is confident that most Singaporeans understand the Bill’s main thrust. The concerted attempts by a small group of persons to mislead have not got any traction among most Singaporeans.
“The small group of persons I have referred to, speak in a shrinking echo chamber, with increasing shrillness. Some take refuge in alarmist language (including comparisons with nuclear wars) in desperate attempts to get attention.”
Netizens on social media have disputed this claim and have asked Mr Tong to prove his claim that an “overwhelming majority” of Singaporeans want strong legislation against fake news.
Asserting that the Government should have called for a national referendum if the people’s views on fake news legislation really mattered, Singaporeans called Mr Tong’s claims “fake news”: