As the saga in relation to the HIV data leak in Singapore rages on, it has been reported that Facebook has (of its own volition) removed the Facebook accounts of American fraudster Mikhy K Farrera Brochez along with several posts containing allegations against the Singaporean authorities and the prison doctor who treated him. In justifying its removal, Facebook cited its “Community Standards” which would require content that “poses a credible threat of harm to others” to be removed.
With this in mind, why is Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong (Tong) so harsh on his views of Facebook calling it “a platform for spreading lies and falsity that poison and divide societies as well as encouraging xenophobia and to profit from that”. Tong had made those comments in relation to the social media giant’s refusal to take down a post by sociopolitical site States Times Review, which linked to an article on its site alleging that Singapore was being investigated in relation to the 1MDB scandal. Clearly, Facebook did not deem this article, which has clearly ruffled a few governmental feathers, as content that has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm. To be fair to Facebook, neither do I.
The government has many ways to defend its good name. Why does it need to attack Facebook or resort to making fresh regulations against the use of social media? Has Facebook harmed Singaporeans or is it more that it is a threat to the reputation of the ruling party?
That article by the States Times Review has already been debunked and I would say that no reasonable minded Singaporean has put any faith in it. Why then is Tong and the Singapore government still pressing ahead with the need for regulation to compel the social media giants to remove content? Clearly, regulation was not needed to clear up this falsehood.
Perhaps there might be a segment of Singaporeans who still believe in falsehoods but no matter what, this segment of society will always exist. Regulation will have limited effects on this.
Facebook has definitely had its failings but from the way it has dealt with the HIV data leak, it is clear that it does have an internal compass to deal with what it deems inappropriate. Could it be construed that legislation is being pushed out to regulate social media content so as to protect those currently in power from potential criticism as opposed to Singaporeans in general? Or that the government would then have the right to decide what are “facts” and what are “fake news”?
And if so, is this acceptable?