Unanimous decision for public education and legislation on deliberate online falsehoods
PUBLISHED ON 20 Sep 2018
The Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods unanimously agreed that there is a need for legislation to combat online falsehoods.
The 10-member committee chaired by Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament for Punggol East Mr Charles Chong held a series of public and closed-door hearings in March after receiving 164 written representations from various individuals and organisations.
In its report, the Committee made 22 recommendations and agreed that new legislation is needed to provide the necessary scope, speed and adaptability to counter the spread of online falsehoods. The report stated: "The Committee deliberated extensively and went through numerous suggestions and formulations before agreeing on the final version of the report. Arising from this, all decisions made by the Committee were unanimous and consensual. It reflects the Members’ shared understanding of the problem and of what Singapore needs to do to counter it."
The 22 recommendations were made to achieve these five objectives:
  1. Nurture an informed public;
  2. Reinforce social cohesion and trust;
  3. Promote fact-checking;
  4. Disrupt online falsehoods; and
  5. Deal with threats to national security and sovereignty.
The Committee added that legislation should be for all relevant platforms, regardless of technological bias. Emphasising the necessity to address the provenance of the deliberate online falsehoods, the committee also suggested measures to ensure deterrence and accountability of perpetrators of deliberate online falsehoods.
Some of the specific recommendations for the Government include:
  • Consideration for a national framework to coordinate and guide public education efforts about the problem of online falsehoods
  • Support for news organisations, technology companies and institutes of higher learning as well as journalists to uphold intellectual integrity and factual accuracy
  • Powers for the Government to swiftly disrupt the spread and influence of online falsehoods
  • Criminal sanctions to be imposed on perpetrators of deliberate online falsehoods
  • Consideration for legislation and other forms of regulatory guidelines for technology companies to tackle online falsehoods
  • Study countermeasures and develop a national level strategy and coordinated approach to counter State-sponsored disinformation operations

The Committee consisted of Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Dr Janil Puthucheary, and MPs Rahayu Mahzam, Seah Kian Peng, Sun Xueling and Edwin Tong from the People's Action Party. The other members are Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh and former Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong.