Spend equal energy educating people as promoting law

The lurid yellow vests worn by littering offenders served with corrective work orders have been "revamped" to an eye-catching luminous pink and yellow combo.
The lurid yellow vests worn by littering offenders served with corrective work orders have been "revamped" to an eye-catching luminous pink and yellow combo.PHOTO: NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

Tackling falsehoods online with strong measures is akin to dealing with litterbugs with heavy fines and Corrective Work Orders in Singapore.

Did we succeed in getting rid of litterbugs with legislation and constant campaigning against littering (More garish CWO vests to make litterbugs more 'distinguishable', May 8)?

It has been over 50 years since the law against littering was enacted.

I imagine the same could be predicted about the efficacy of restricting the spread of falsehoods by legislation.

Legislation is the first tool most governments reach for in trying to shape human behaviour in public. But no legislation has succeeded in eradicating a bad behaviour completely.

So, let us not put too much hope in how much the present legislation on falsehoods will accomplish (Fake news law needed to retain trust in key institutions: Minister, May 8).

Instead, let's focus on educating gullible humans on how to be discerning.

In the long run, a people capable of critical thinking is better than a whole ream of rules and prohibitions.

Yes, legislate as much as you wish, but please put in as much, if not more, effort at educating the people to think critically.

Everyone must take responsibility to educate themselves, too.

And we cannot enhance this latter effort if we constantly let only a few smart people decide on what is wrong or right for the public.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'Spend equal energy educating people as promoting law'. Print Edition | Subscribe