Election will be first big test for fake news law

The two dominant players in Parliament - the Government and the opposition - have vociferously defended their own stands in the ensuing debate on the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.
The two dominant players in Parliament - the Government and the opposition - have vociferously defended their own stands in the ensuing debate on the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Much has been said and heard in online and offline conversations about the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.

The two dominant players in Parliament - the Government and the opposition - have vociferously defended their own stands in the ensuing debate.

If the concern is that the new law will put sweeping powers in the hands of the Government to deal with falsehoods and the like, then the first important test of this new law will surely be in the elections which must be held by April 2021.

The opposition is wary that the Government will not hesitate to use the law to stifle discussions.

However, I am more worried that sometime in the future, a rogue government of the day may use the law to suppress dissent to legitimise its authority.

But, even then, we should not underestimate the resolve of the people in rising to the occasion to put things right.

They may go offline to fight their cause using word of mouth, which is much slower but equally effective.

That said, if the powers dished out under the new law are narrower than the current laws of the land, why are we spending so much time pushing through something new that most people are uncomfortable with?

Raymond Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'Election will be first big test for fake news law'. Print Edition | Subscribe