In Brief: New laws may stifle creativity: Mothership.sg

New laws may stifle creativity: Mothership.sg

New laws against deliberate online falsehoods may risk stifling the flow of ideas and creativity if they are too "blunt and hard-handed".

With a greater appetite for diverse viewpoints among Singaporeans today, such laws may also erode trust in local media and prompt them to turn to foreign outlets instead, local news site Mothership.sg told the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods yesterday.

Responding, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary assured the site's managing editor Martino Tan that any new legislation will be carefully written and specifically scoped so that it leads to "an increase of trust in discourse and discussion".

Mr Tan and Mothership's managing director Lien We King had noted that social media companies have been "mopping up majority of the world's advertising revenues".

They agreed with Dr Janil that steps have to be taken to fix the "flawed marketplace of ideas" brought about by the spread of social media platforms. Doing so will allow more credible and accurate information to enrich space for discourse, said Dr Janil.


Worries over falsehoods among different groups

Concerns about falsehoods circulating among different groups of people came up during the hearing yesterday.

While fake news have existed for a long time, senior citizens could be accessing social media only recently and are "newcomers to the game", said Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao editor Goh Sin Teck.

Mr Goh stressed the importance of media literacy for this group, and said the type of falsehoods he sees range from health-related and lifestyle myths to more sensitive falsehoods about China.

He noted that such falsehoods spread as this group of people "think since someone shared this with me online, it must be true, so I will spread it to my friends so they can be enlightened too".

Mr Goh and Berita Harian editor Mohamed Sa'at Abdul Rahman said traditional non-English media play an important part in containing the spread of sensitive fake news.

Mr Mohamed Sa'at said his newspaper takes extra care when it comes to sensitive topics.

"From time to time, there may be racial or religious issues. For this, we take great care," he said, adding that such topics are emotive and can be exploited to influence opinion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'In Brief'. Print Edition | Subscribe