Singapore’s ‘fake news’ law worrying academics


SINGAPORE: Nearly 100 academics worldwide have expressed concern over Singapore’s proposed law against “fake news”, warning it could threaten academic freedom and hurt the city-state’s ambition to become a global education hub.

The government this month unveiled a Bill containing tough measures, including powers for ministers to order sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter to put warnings next to posts authorities deem false, and extreme cases, to take them down.

If an action is deemed malicious and damaging to Singapore’s interests, companies could be hit with fines of up to S$1mil (RM3mil), while individuals could face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Authorities insist the measures are necessary to prevent online falsehoods sowing social divisions, but the move has sparked anger from press freedom groups and tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

Now 97 academics from around the world with expertise in Singapore and Asia have signed a letter warning the proposed legislation “may deter scholarship and set precedents harmful to global academia”.

The group, called Academics Against Disinformation, also said they wrote to the education ministry to express their concerns.

The ministry was cited as saying the draft law does not restrict opinion and will not affect academic research work, but the academics said they could not accept the response as a guarantee. — AFP