Definition of Online Falsehood
Falsehood is being spread online deliberately all over the world. The intention behind spreading online falsehood is to attack and affect the individuals and public institutions. The main objectives is to sow conflict amongst religious communities, undermine the public institutions, exploit fault-lines, interference in the process of election and create racial issues to weaken the countries (Kumar & Geethakumari, 2014). Deliberate online falsehood had impacted the society several times in several ways, for example, Twitter had identified between the September to November 2016, 36746 accounts which generated election related contents which were potentially linked with the same foreign countries. Those accounts were claimed to generate approximately 1.4 million election related tweets that received almost 288 million impressions (Donald, 2016). It was observed in a study that just before the elections in Germany, the country encountered too many false news online. On in four stories to be exact, over the twitter had contained supposedly misinformation. Different Governments, media and experts of countries, have observed that, the aim of the online falsehood was to interfere with elections and politics or financial consequences. Additionally, there were two kinds of actors, such as: private individuals or entities and Foreign State Actors (Gaiziuniene & Cibulskas, 2014). The private actors were aimed at to gain profit by spreading online falsehood. Whereas, the main purpose of the foreign states actors to spread online falsehood was to destabilise the other countries particularly during elections.
Issues surrounding the enactment of additional laws to prevent and combat online falsehood
Countries have enacted different legislation to regulate and combat the issue of online falsehood. Still they have not been able to fully and entirely eliminate this issue (Marwick & Lewis, 2017). There is a need to enact efficient legislations to contest the threat of online falsehood, in countries like Singapore.
Political, legal, economic and social issues
A new enactment of legislation by the parliament is necessarily required to fight against the emerging problem. Therefore, it is needed that before enacting a legislation, the issues should be addressed and examined thoroughly by countries. Every such activity that is detected should be identified, given utmost importance and reported to the appropriate authority (Sprs.parl.gov.sg., 2018). If the incidents are not addressed properly, then it would be inefficient to enact the legislation. The proper scope, extent and adaptability of the legislative provisions must be ensured before it actually comes into effect.
Drafting and enacting a proper legislation should does not always mean to override the existing laws. If the existing laws are not sufficient enough to provide safeguard to the issues of deliberate online falsehood, then only the new law should be drafted. Mr Morteza Shahrezaye of Bavarian School of public Policy told that there is no effective evidence that can prove that people are actually fooled or affected by the online falsehood. Drafting new legislation may make the parliament face challenges and criticism. Individuals could get affected by such decision. The enactment of additional legislation should not be made in such a way to curtail their right. It should make provisions only to the extent to detect issues and combat it. It should not unnecessarily suspect any issue. On the other hand, online falsehood poses a real challenge to the society. If the motivation to spread deliberate online falsehood could not be prevented, the society may face a threat to security at large. Everyone has the right to get correct and appropriate information to a thing. This right should be protected by the Government.
Arguments for the enactment of additional laws to prevent and combat online falsehood in Singapore
Countries like UK, United States, Germany, Australia and others have faced coordinated attacks by the foreign state actors to manipulate the public opinion of the citizens of the countries. It has created and influenced the election process, and incited violence in such countries. To avoid such kind of challenges to Singapore and Singaporeans, there is a need to enact new legislations.
The existing laws in Singapore to deal with the deliberate attempts to spread online falsehood are the Penal Code and the Sedition Act. This legislations are inadequate as they does not prevent the spreading of the falsehood, they are only effective to provide any remedy after the dissemination of the deliberate falsehood. They are not efficient enough to thwart the deliberate attempt of online falsehood spread by local or foreign actors. It is appropriate to enact an additional law to prevent falsehood online, based on the report of the Standing Committee, by the Singapore Parliament. An additional law will give power to the authorities to do anything to overcome the online falsehood. For example, after Malaysia implemented anti-fake news law, the crime is being is detected and investigated, as the PM of Malaysia was investigated after claiming that his flight was sabotaged.
Arguments against the enactment of additional law to prevent and combat online falsehood
On the other hand, too much restrictions on the media platforms can affect their growth. There may arise a restriction over the freedom of expression if additional laws are enacted to combat online falsehood. If the legislation is too rigid to exceed the proportionate threat level, then the law enforcement agencies may face the consequences. However, online falsehood can be remedies by any additional law but not prevented. An attempt to remedy may be worthless if the source of the issues cannot be controlled. There needs to be rather an intermediary who would restrict the source. The content published over the online media should be examined and required to have a minimum standard (Mlaw.gov.sg, 2018). No enactment of additional law is required, as online falsehood can be or have been addressed by the existing law. Human Rights Group Maurah, said in their written submission, that there may be a risk that new legislation actions would stifle or dispirit the freedom to speech and could be used against any legitimate right to express dissenting opinions.
Donald, B. (2016). Stanford researchers find students have trouble judging the credibility of information online. news release, Stanford Graduate School of Education, November, 22.
Gaiziuniene, L., & Cibulskas, G. (2014). Factors influencing falsehood in online educational research (II). Social Sciences, 84(2), 57-68.
Kumar, K. K., & Geethakumari, G. (2014). Detecting misinformation in online social networks using cognitive psychology. Human-centric Computing and Information Sciences, 4(1), 14.
Marwick, A., & Lewis, R. (2017). Media manipulation and disinformation online. New York: Data & Society Research Institute.
Mlaw.gov.sg (2018). [ebook] Mlaw.gov.sg. Available at: https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/dam/minlaw/corp/News/Annexe%20A%20-%20Green%20Paper%20on%20Deliberate%20Online%20Falsehoods.pdf [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Sprs.parl.gov.sg. (2018). [Ebook]. Sprs.parl.gov.sg. Retrieved from https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/selectcommittee/selectcommittee/download?id=1&type=subReport