Purveyors of fake news should not be spared

Several days ago, what started out innocuously as a Facebook post about two puppies in a vet clinic, and which included a Malaysian phone number and a plea to help adopt them before they were euthanised, quickly became the topic to share.

In the ensuing furore, someone down the line changed the tenor of the message and inserted "SPCA Singapore" and included its hotline number. It was then shared.

You can imagine how it must have hurt animal lovers' sensitivities, when it was shared that SPCA Singapore would put down two puppies if no one adopted them.

It quickly spread like wildfire on WhatsApp and Facebook, to the extent that SPCA Singapore had to issue a statement on its Facebook page that the puppies had, in fact, not been brought to the organisation.

The person who wilfully and maliciously inserted the details about SPCA Singapore, whether it was out of mischief or because he had an axe to grind with the organisation, acted irresponsibly - maybe even criminally.

When they could have been tending to real emergencies, SPCA staff had to spend time placating a concerned public over two non-existent puppies.

To the people who quickly shared the post, withholding any judgment on the news they received - you are as culpable of propagating fake news. Stop. Think. Act.

Parliament is studying the phenomenon of fake news, and crafting text to introduce laws against it next year.

While I am against curtailing free speech and creativity, I am a proponent of having legislation criminalising the intent of creating fake news.

Corinne Fong (Ms)