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Shanmugam: Law to combat fake news to be introduced next year
A new law to fight fake news will be Introduced next year and the government will be consulting stakeholders in the second half of this year on it, Singapore's Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday.
Giving the keynote address at a conference titled "Keep It Real: Truth And Trust In The Media", Mr Shanmugam said the government has to maintain a strong climate of trust, and be able to counter misinformation spread online.
He said the authorities must be equipped to deal with current challenges and added that society, the media and Internet companies also have a role to play.
He revealed that an earlier survey showed more than nine in 10 Singaporeans supported stronger laws to ensure fake news is removed or corrected.
Misinformation is more serious now than before, and is an "easy and effective" way to advance agendas, Mr Shanmugam said.
Members of the public and of civil society have to help foster a culture where the truth is protected and that is why media literacy is extremely important, so people can spot fake news and deal with it, he added.
The media plays an important role in being a trusted source of news, while companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter "bear a significant responsibility" in tackling misinformation too, and some of these firms have given their voluntary commitment to remove reported hate speech within 24 hours, but this may not be enough, Mr Shanmugam said.
He added that the government cannot merely rely on the standards of media companies as the negative impact of false narratives is amplified by "echo chambers" online.
He said Singapore has been "particularly vulnerable" to foreign influences harnessing fake news for their own ends.
The country also faces issues such as misinformation exploiting racial and religious fault lines, and rumours on social media like WhatsApp that confuse and promote distrust.
"If the distrust becomes deep-rooted, people will have serious doubts about the institutions, about leadership, about governance," he said.
The two-day conference, held at the Singapore Management University's (SMU) new School of Law Building on Armenian street, was organised by The Straits Times and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra), in partnership with the Canadian High Commission, Facebook, Google, German political organisation Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the National Library Board, and SMU.