MinLaw: Facebook’s refusal to take down post shows why legislation is needed to protect Singapore from Deliberate Online Falsehood

Ministry of Law has shared that Facebook declined to take down the controversial States Times Review (STR) article which it says is “clearly false, defamatory and attacks Singapore, using falsehoods.”

MinLaw said in its press release on Friday, “This shows why we need legislation to protect us from deliberate online falsehoods.”

The STR article,”Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” which was published on 5 Nov, claimed that editor-in-chief of investigative journalism platform Sarawak Report (SR) Ms Clare Rewcastle had mentioned Singapore as “one of the key investigation targets, alongside Switzerland and United States” in the 1MDB scandal during an interview with Malaysian media.

MinLaw stated that many Malaysian publications, including China Press, that had initially reported STR’s malicious post, took it down after our High Commission in Malaysia issued a clarification to say the post was false and libellous. It also noted Sarawak Report and its editor Ms Clare Rewcastle Brown, whose statement was quoted in the STR article, have issued two statements to say STR’s claim that the Report had declared Singapore to be the next target of the 1MDB investigation was false.

“But Facebook does not feel all this is sufficient grounds for it to remove the post” wrote MinLaw and added,  “FB cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign.”

TOC understands that certain members of public have been approached by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove their Facebook post of the offending STR article as the article constitutes prohibited material under the Internet Code of Conduct.

The social-political site has been blocked by Internet Service Providers in Singapore since Friday late evening under the instruction of IMDA after it refused to comply with the order to take down the said offending article.

In the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods earlier this year, the committee members had pushed for the idea that there should be powers for the government to compel social-media platforms such as Google and Facebook to take down content if they are false. This was, however, not mentioned explicitly in the report produced by the Select Committee.