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Straits Times offers 8-hour course on how to spot fake news, costing S$648 per seat

The course aims to teach participants about "fighting fake news, the impact of the new fake news law, common examples in social media, how to spot fake news, common fallacies and misleading headlines and how to navigate complex debates."

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The is offering a media analysis course, that is expected to teach participants how to spot fake news and analyse arguments in the media. The 8-hour course, which is set to take place at the SPH News Centre between 10am and 6pm on 31 July, will cost a hefty S$648 per seat.

The course is one of the offerings by the national broadsheet’s ST Skills education venture. ST skills aims to “help professionals do better at their work and to help students acquire the love for reading and writing by being in touch with important things that happen around them,” through a panel of coaches including journalists and teachers.

According to the ST skills website, the media analysis course is set to equip professionals and social media users “with the skills to spot fake news and analyse arguments in the media.”

In the course, participants will purportedly learn about “fighting fake news, the impact of the new fake news law, common examples in social media, how to spot fake news, common fallacies and misleading headlines and how to navigate complex debates.”

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The trainers teaching the course are Shefali Rekhi and Geoffrey Pereira. Ms Shefali, a senior journalist at the Straits Times who is originally from India, is touted as “one of the key anchors in ST’s initiatives to fight fake news.”

Mr Pereira, who serves as a special projects editor at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), is a veteran journalist who has been with the national broadsheet since 1986.

Interestingly, ST Skills has asserted that there will be “NO refunds and cancellations.”

Earlier, SPH – which owns the Straits Times and ST Skills – said that it welcomed the new anti-fake news law that was recently passed in Parliament.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation bill (POFMA), which aims to 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, how to act against it and who to exempt from the law.

In a statement published well before the law was passed, SPH said that even though it wishes the authority to determine what is an online falsehood had been given to an independent body, it “welcomes the Government’s draft legislation to deal decisively with the challenge of deliberate online falsehoods”.

The organisation added: “Given the vulnerabilities that exist in society, the measures proposed will help address a clear and present danger posed by those who seek to use new media platforms to spread misinformation and falsehoods deliberately.

“We had proposed that a level playing field be established for all media players in having to correct or take down online falsehoods, and welcome the moves to do so in the draft Bill. We also note the decision to require corrections and clarifications as an option, with take-down orders being used for more egregious content.”

SPH pointed out that it had earlier proposed a neutral arbiter to determine what is an online falsehood, so that the process would have more credibility “in the eyes of the public”.

Noting that the proposed law, which grants this authority to ministers, has given rise to “disquiet in some quarters”, SPH said that it shares these concerns. It said:

“While we understand the need to act quickly in some instances, we continue to believe that an independent authority would have provided a neutral avenue for content creators or news organisations to appeal to, short of resorting to a legal challenge.”

There are close ties between the directors of SPH and the Singapore Government. S. R. Nathan, Director of the Security and Intelligence Division and later President of Singapore, served as SPH’s Executive chairman from 1982 to 1988.

SPH’s first President (1994–2002) was Tjong Yik Min, former chief of the Internal Security Department. The immediate former Chairman of SPH, Tony Tan, was Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore from 1994 to 2005 and President of Singapore from 2011 to 2017.

Dr Lee Boon Yang is the current chairman of Singapore Press Holdings. Former Chief of Defence Force Ng Yat Chung is the current CEO since 1 September 2017.

A US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks several years ago caused a stir after it quoted former ST bureau chief for the US as saying that SPH’s “editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line”.

Read the full Wikileaks cable HERE.

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