Should governments decide what counts as news?
In April, the government of Singapore proposed their version of an anti-fake news law called the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.
Singapore has taken a unique perspective on the issue of fake news attempting to limit it to any news or opinion published about the government. The idea is that you cannot limit or control what news is fake until you provide a context for what news is considered fake.
It’s an interesting paradox; whose news is fake and whose news is real? Who should decide?
Singapore is one of the most exciting and dynamic cities on the planet and one of the richest, but it comes at a cost. Lee Kuan Yew the benevolent autocrat who ran Singapore from independence was a big fan of strong rules to control growth and accommodate a racial melting pot of a population. A big stick in return for a big carrot.
The problem is, that big stick restrains certain civil rights and limits certain freedoms of expression. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense that the government, that is in the business of making laws, would want to control the legal definition of fake news. When that government is one that allows censorship and bans chewing gum to this day, you should probably be concerned.
Singapore is just the latest in a series of countries whose governments have decided to stake claim to what is real and what is fake news. They join other illustrious bastions of Democracy like Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Russia and Venezuela. This should concern Singaporeans enough to consider if their government still has their best interests at heart.
Singaporeans should be proud of what they and their government have accomplished over the last 54 years but they should also be cautious about their government’s motivation behind this new bill. Once a bill is passed into law it is too late to express concerns about how it will be enforced so the time to speak up is now.
Would you trust your government to define what news is fake news? Control or censorship of the Internet anywhere should concern us all; especially in a time when social media is also under increased scrutiny and threat of regulation.
Government says they are looking out for us. Social media says they will get better. Who should I trust to determine what I see when I look at my newsfeed?
I would rather trust myself.