New laws against fake news to be introduced in 2018: Shanmugam

The “very serious” nature of fake news means that new laws to combat the phenomenon will likely be introduced next year, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (19 June).

This may involve working with online platforms to track and debunk falsehoods, and acting against the perpetrators of falsehoods. Stakeholders from arenas such as the legal profession, media professionals and tech companies will also be consulted in the second half of 2017.

“In this so-called ‘post-truth’ world, even flimsy and ludicrous misinformation can sow doubt. People may believe fake news because it comes from within their social networks, which are familiar to them and share their worldview,” said Shanmugam, who was speaking at a forum on truth and trust in the media.

According to a Today report, the minister noted that governments in Germany, the United Kingdom and Israel have also updated their legislation on fake news, calling it a “no brainer”.

Shanmugam cited a recent Government survey that showed 91 per cent of Singaporeans support stronger laws to “ensure the removal and correction of fake news”. The same survey showed that only about half of respondents are confident about their ability to recognise fake news.

Two in three respondents could not discern “fake news” when they first saw it, and some 25 per cent of them shared information which they later discovered to be false.

Shanmugam also noted that legislation is only one part of efforts to tackle fake news. Civil society, the media and tech companies must also play their part.

“We need to see how we can strengthen our resilience through media literacy education, to instill critical thinking… Members of the public and civil society have to help foster an online culture where truth is valued and protected.”

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