Singapore government casts doubts over social media firms in fighting fake news

Facebook’s conduct in its data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica has cast doubt over the Singapore government over whether or not the former can be trusted to cooperate in the fight against online falsehoods.

This was revealed by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam (pictured) in Parliament yesterday, and saw the minister expressing that Facebook had fallen short in its claimed standards of transparency in handling the incident and user data, a ST report said.

The Select Committee hearing on deliberate online falsehoods saw the attending of tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. Representatives from the tech companies were grilled on their track records, statements and actions by the committee, in a bid to establish their reliability as partners in fighting fake news.

In a Reuters report, companies such as Facebook and Twitter also expressed concern over a possible new Singapore law to tackle fake news, adding that current rules in place are enough. Alvin Tan, Facebook’s head of public policy for Southeast Asia, added that Facebook does not believe legislation is the best approach due to sufficient current laws and regulations addressing hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Reen, Twitter’s director of Public Policy for Asia Pacific, said that no single company, governmental or non-governmental actor, should be the “arbiter of truth”.

Last year, Shanmugam raised the red flag on the prevalence and impact of fake news in Singapore. In his speech, Shanmugam named websites such as All Singapore Stuff and States Times Review as websites which perpetuate fake stories, raising the potential impact fake news has on national security, on top of ill-profiteering.

Marketing has reached out to the Ministry of Law, Facebook and Twitter for comment.