Source of falsehoods should face full brunt of law

The Government's move to appoint a Select Committee to tackle fake news is certainly a welcome one, given the rise in such news recently (Select Committee to examine fake news threat; Jan 11).

If this is not done, over time, the fake news can spread wildly and may cause irreversible damage to our social fabric.

Committee chairman Charles Chong's assurance that the committee will "strive to ensure there is space for healthy discourse" is another step in a positive direction (Panel 'will ensure space for healthy discourse'; Jan 12).

I am all for curtailing, and even prosecuting, those who deliberately create false news that touches on race, language, religion and their related practices; and those who create false alarm that may fan violence or cause panic.

These original perpetrators are the ones who should be taken to task and face the full brunt of the law.

Those who knowingly forward falsehoods must also be subjected to prosecution, but perhaps their punishment should be less severe than that meted out to the creators of the fake news.

That said, many people who forward messages that turn out to be false may, in most cases, have done so out of ignorance of the facts.

They may have genuinely wished to warn their friends and families, and had no intention of escalating the alarm.

These people should not be subjected to prosecution or even investigation.

Rajasegaran Ramasamy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2018, with the headline 'Source of falsehoods should face full brunt of law'. Print Edition | Subscribe