Online news sites must publish corrections on fake news, take down false articles under proposed law: Lee Hsien Loong

The new Bill will give the Government the power to hold online news sources and platforms accountable if they proliferate deliberate falsehoods, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. PHOTO: MEDIACORP

SINGAPORE - A proposed law will require online news sites to publish corrections or warnings on fake news, or even remove such articles in extreme cases, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday evening (March 29).

These changes to tackle the spread of fake news are part of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, which will be introduced in Parliament on Monday.

The new Bill will give the Government the power to hold online news sources and platforms accountable if they proliferate deliberate falsehoods, Mr Lee said.

"This includes requiring them to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods, so that readers or viewers can see all sides, and make up their own minds about the matter.

"In extreme and urgent cases, the legislation will also require online news sources to take down fake news before irreparable damage is done," he added in a speech on the changing media landscape at Channel NewsAsia's 20th anniversary celebrations.

On Monday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam is scheduled to deliver a ministerial statement on restricting hate speech to maintain racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

A research paper released on Thursday by the Institute of Policy Studies showed that one in four Singaporeans have no qualms about allowing extremist religious leaders to share their views online, as long as they do not instigate harm against others.

In his speech, Mr Lee stressed that legislation alone is not enough.

Such laws must be supplemented by citizens who are alert to the problem of fake news, well-informed of what is going on in the world, and provided with the means of making sound assessments of what they read and hear, he said.

Students are taught information literacy and cyber wellness in schools, and the National Library Board provides tips on such issues for the general population. The Government's Factually website also publishes the facts on government policies or issues of public interest.

"But spotting fake news is easier said than done. In general, people are overconfident about their ability to do so," Mr Lee said, adding that even the most intelligent and well-trained people can fall victim to such falsehoods.

Mr Lee said Channel NewsAsia therefore plays an important role in Singapore's society.

He urged the broadcaster to invest in its people, build new capabilities, and take advantage of Singapore's status as a media and technology hub.

"The Government, as one of your key partners, will work hand in hand with you," he said. "We share an interest in fostering an informed society through quality journalism."

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