Parliament: Workers' Party opposes proposed law on fake news, says Pritam Singh

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said the Government should be able to take down false claims but emphasised that the courts ought to be the channel through which this is done, as a way to legitimise the takedown action.
Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said the Government should be able to take down false claims but emphasised that the courts ought to be the channel through which this is done, as a way to legitimise the takedown action.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The opposition Workers' Party (WP) opposes the proposed fake news law, on the grounds that ministers should not be the deciding body on what constitutes false matters, its chief Pritam Singh said in Parliament.

Speaking at the debate on Tuesday (May 7), Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) said the Government should be able to take down false claims but emphasised that the courts ought to be the channel through which this is done, as a way to legitimise the takedown action.

This is in part due to the fact that the public understanding of some clauses in the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Bill currently gives "broad latitude to the executive to clamp down on what is misleading but which may not be false per se", he said.

Under the proposed amendments, any minister has the power to decide if a statement is false or misleading and against public interest - a clause which some members of the public have criticised for fear of abuse.

On Tuesday, Mr Singh also argued that if ordinary Singaporeans are expected to apply to the courts to take action over online falsehoods made against them, it would make sense for the executive to surrender to such applications too.

"Consistent application of the law will create greater clarity for all parties" and help with public education, he said.

 

He also pointed out that, under the proposed laws, even if the court can hear appeals against a minister's decision, the courts are traditionally non-interventionist and tend not to overrule the executive's decision.

The debate is expected to continue till Wednesday.