Media Literacy Council reviewing material after photos of book saying satire is 'fake news' go viral

Besides listing satire as a form of "fake news", the booklet also said that satire uses humour or exaggeration to make fun of hot-button issues. PHOTO: REDDIT

SINGAPORE - The Media Literacy Council's portrayal of satire as "fake news" is back in the spotlight.

Photos of the council's booklet which describes satire as a form of "fake news" have gone viral online.

The photos, posted on online forum Reddit on Tuesday (Sept 17), show pages from a book that appears to be from the council's Get Smart With Sherlock fact-check kit that was distributed to schools.

Besides listing satire as a form of "fake news", the booklet also said that satire uses humour or exaggeration to make fun of hot-button issues, which may "fool people unfamiliar with the website, or event mentioned".

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Media Literacy Council (MLC) said on Friday that it is aware of the issue and is currently reviewing its materials.

"Our last dispatch to schools that requested the guide was in August and we have since stopped the distribution to schools," said the MLC.

In the post, Reddit user ongcs claims that his son, who is in Primary 1, received the book from his school on Tuesday, more than a week after policymakers came out to say that the MLC's characterisation of satire as "fake news" was inaccurate.

On Sept 8, the MLC apologised over creating the "wrong impression" that satire is fake news in a Facebook post, and added that it would review its material.

It had initially defended itself in a reply to a netizen's comment, saying some could be fooled by a satirical article if the irony or humour was not "readily apparent".

The offending graphic highlighted six types of "fake news": false context, imposter content, manipulated content, misleading content, clickbait and satire.

Over 250 comments had been posted by 5pm on Sept 8, mostly criticising the MLC and pointing out that satire was not covered by a recently passed law on falsehoods.

In response, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said last Friday that satire was not covered by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) passed in May and that the post was not an accurate representation of the Act.

"The suggestion that satire is covered by Pofma is erroneous," he said.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin made a similar assurance in a Facebook post on Sept 9.

The Reddit user, ongcs, said in a post that he has "no issue" and actually appreciated the initiative. Rather, he took issue with how Primary 1 pupils are expected to understand complex terms like "confirmation bias" and "illusory truth effect".

"My boy told me that, the teacher just handed (the pupils) the book, without any further instruction," he said, adding that the teacher neither read nor explained the material. He did not name the school.

ST has contacted the Reddit user for more information.

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