The Ministry of Law has stated in a press release that Facebook’s refusal to take down a controversial States Times Review article which it says is “clearly false, defamatory and attacks Singapore, using falsehoods.” shows shows why legislation is required to protect Singapore from “deliberate online falsehoods.”
I don’t agree with Facebook’s (FB) stance not to take down posts that are proven to contain serious allegations of a false nature. The representative from FB during the Select Committee had already stated that FB has in place, certain practices in place to remove certain content which infringe its terms and condition.
That said, we do not have enough information to ascertain the reasoning behind FB’s refusal. I can only imagine that FB would receive a staggering number of requests to remove content and as such would probably require a checklist of information to be provided before it acts.
This has nothing to do with whether or not the information is true or false. It is simply an operation/administrative process. Could it be that FB has not removed the disputed content because the government has not yet provided all the checklist items? That’s the first question we need to answer before jumping on the “FB is unreliable bandwagon”.
Secondly, I do not agree with the direct correlation between FB and regulation. Just because FB does not play ball with the government does not mean that regulation is needed. There are after all many ways to skin a cat.
The government wants to ensure that its citizens do not fall prey to falsehoods and I do understand that desire. However, would people be so vulnerable to falsehoods if they trusted what the mainstream media was telling them? Over the years, the mainstream media has earned the reputation of only reporting the government’s version of events.
Until that reputation is rehabilitated, there may always be a degree of mistrust from people. This is not something that regulation will ever be able to control. Being susceptible to online falsehoods is but a symptom of the deeper problem of suspicion. Rushing to enact legislation may in fact fuel the problem, driving it further underground and making it even harder to regulate.
FB has become a global phenomenon and an integral part of how people all over the world interact with each other. Global brands have FB pages and even our own politicians utilise FB. Attacking FB’s reliability therefore has its own shortcomings. FB is after all a forum for content to be uploaded. It is not the originator of the news.
As such, whether or not FB takes down content in a timely matter is not a benchmark for whether or not regulation is required. It is akin to closing down reservoirs because there isn’t enough rain or getting rid of umbrellas because it cannot keep you completely dry in a downpour. In other words, comparing apples with pears.
Let’s go back to basics. Would news outlets that allegedly dish out fake news attract market share if people were generally content with how information is dispensed by those in power? Clearly, it is suspicion that creates the demand for other sources of news.
Regulation will never quell suspicion. Only trust can.