In an interview with Channel News Asia, Law & Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that based on meetings he’s had and various feedback, the people ‘by and large’ understand the proposed anti-fake news legislation and while there are concerns, it is restricted to a smaller group.
For those who have concerns, his message is that “99% of people don’t have to worry about what they do 99% of the time”. The primary approach that the government will take under POFMA is to ask tech platforms to put a notice that a statement is false which will be pushed out to everyone.
“The people who need to be concerned are the people who profit from and peddle in falsehoods. They put out [sic] knowing that it’s false and they know that they are going to profit from it. They are doing it deliberately, they are setting it out, there’s some element of malice, they need to worry,” said Mr Shamugam, adding that most people do not fall into that category.
Under the proposed law, anyone posting from their own account or using a bot will be held liable should they post misleading information or falsehoods. So what about fake accounts? If the government finds that an account is inauthentic, made for the sole purpose of spreading one type of message that may be misleading, will those be shut down?
Specifically, what about fake accounts that support the government?
These pro-PAP Facebook pages and accounts are everywhere including one we found which left a comment on the CNA Facebook post sharing this interview with Mr Shanmugam.
One commenter, Melvin Sim wrote, “Getting own media to interview?! All questions and answers were definitely planned beforehand… To me, its so fake! ???. You should try letting an international media company interview, just like LKY!”
In response, San YC Wang retorted Sim for his comments.
Sim then accused Wang’s account as a fake account and wrote, “San YC Wang lmfao… fake account?!! You lot of people only know how to hide behind a fake account and going around commenting, you fakers… so much like the fake fellow being interviewed by CNA(also another local media acting and spreading fake news for those in power)! Go search how many international media companies was so interested in and has interviewed LKY and was broadcasted through the years!”
And true enough, Wang’s account does not seem to be an authentic social media account of a person – with no personal information, no friends, and only follows a large number of political pages in Singapore.
This ‘person’ also didn’t respond further to replies either to defend themselves or further their argument. This is just one of many pro-government fake accounts we’ve seen on Facebook.
In August last year we highlighted a rise in fake accounts coming out in support of MINDEF in the comments section of mainstream media Facebook pages. The same accounts were seen defending MINDEF and with a little digging, it appears that these were created fairly recently with all the same traits as the account mentioned above – little to no personal postings and follows a handful of socio-political and government pages. While those specific profiles have since been suspended or deactivated, what of the countless others that are still active on social media which are clearly attempting to increase the number of positive comments made about the government?
Will those be shut down as well? Will that be considered an offence under POFMA? Or will they be exempt under Clause 61 of the bill?