It has by now been widely reported that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) is suing long time blogger Leong Sze Hian (Leong) for alleged defamation over Leong sharing an article on Facebook (FB) that has allegedly defamed PM Lee.
Leong has clarified that he was not behind the offensive article and nor did he add to it via captions or commentaries. He merely shared it. Just like millions of other FB users worldwide. Leong has clicked “share” on his FB page.
Does this mean that anyone who shares any article (without commentary) that the authorities deem defamatory will be potentially guilty of defamation? That sets a dangerous precedent for possible misuse. It also leads to uncertainty because invariably, it will be unevenly applied. There are just too many people sharing articles and information daily on a global perspective.
Also, does “blank sharing” (ie sharing articles without commentary) an article constitute defamation?
The government has criticised FB recently over its refusal to take down a certain article from the States Times Review (STR) which had implied that Singapore and PM Lee were somehow involved in the 1MDB article. While the contents of the STR article have been debunked, the government has used FB’s refusal to comply with the government’s request as a reason for why harsher regulations were necessary.
This apparent displeasure at FB and now suing Leong over an article on FB would lead one to think that the government has grave concerns over FB. If this were the case, why are certain prominent members of the government (PM Lee included) still active on FB? Surely, they should lead by example and shun FB?
At the end of the day, it cannot be one rule for the government and another rule for the rest of the country.
In other words, while decrying the dangers of FB, they are also still active users of FB. Could this send the message that the government is happy to harness the powers of FB for its own agenda but are not happy with others to do the same?
Further, could this create the impression that the government is more ready to take down individuals and not big powerful entities such as FB because individuals are more vulnerable and easier to get at? Could this (perhaps unwittingly) give off the “bully” image? Does the government want to come across as an entity that is prepared to cow its own citizens with lawsuits while allowing big corporations such as FB to “get away”?