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Singapore: ‘fake news’ law takes effect amid controversy

Singapore’s new law aimed at curbing the spread of “fake news” has been signed into law. This comes amid criticism from free-speech activists and tech giants. Critics describe the controversial law as a “chilling” attempt to suppress dissent.

Under the law, government ministers in the country have the power to instruct social media giants to post warnings along with posts deemed as false. Ultimately, extreme cases of “fake news” will be ordered to be taken down.

Tech giants namely, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, were granted exemptions from some provisions in the act to aid in their transition. These giants are known to have their Asia headquarters in the country.

In other news, the country of Malaysia has decided to scrap a similar “fake news” law amid fears that it could breach free speech.

In Singapore’s law, companies could be fined up to USD720,000 dollars if certain actions are deemed malicious and/or damaging to the interests of the government. Individuals who are found guilty of non-compliance could face up to 10 years of jail time.

The country’s authorities insist that the prohibitions are mandated to halt the circulation of fallacies that could cause a divided society and ruin trust in Singapore’s institutions. Singapore has been facing long-term criticism for its restrictions on civil liberties. The unitary state is known for practicing tight control over its citizens.

Kirsten Han, an activist, and journalist in the country told the AFP that the legislation was “extremely worrying”.

“It’s such a broad law that it’s hard to predict how it’s going to be applied. What’s of immediate concern is the chilling effect and the further entrenchment of self-censorship,” she adds.