Photographs of a book by the Media Literacy Council (MLC) listing satire as fake news were posted by user ongcs on discussion website Reddit on Tue (17 Sep).
The book, they explained, was given to Primary One students in their son’s school.
“A book about fake news that my P1 boy received from school today,” ongcs wrote in the title of their post.
The photographs surfaced weeks after MLC issued an apology for posting an infographic listing satire as one of the forms in which fake news can be propagated, following backlash from the public and even veteran journalist Bertha Henson.
The Council said in a Facebook post on 8 Sep that it did not intend to give “the wrong impression” that satire was fake news.
“We acknowledge that the post and infographic gave the wrong impression that satire was fake news, which was not the intent. We are sorry for the confusion and will review our material,” said MLC.
MLC added that the infographic was aimed at raising “awareness among youths and the general public about the need to be aware of the ways in which misinformation or fake news can be spread”, adding that it was also meant to “encourage readers to understand the context in which information is presented”.
User jotunck expressed their surprise at how satire was still included in the book without any corrections and amendments, given the backlash MLC received online and its subsequent apology:
User greenerapple suggested that the book might have been circulated to the entire school “without considering whether it was age-appropriate”, and not just to Primary One students:
User FitCranberry pointed out how the book by MLC is still being distributed – in this case, in schools – when Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has clarified that satire is not, by law, classified as fake news:
Shanmugam noted last Fri (13 Sep) that MLC made an error in stating that satire is fake news, as the government has been “very clear, both in Parliament and outside” that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) does not target satire.
“Only false statements that objectively would be seen as statements of fact can be caught under POFMA,” he said, stressing that the allegedly offending material has to be examined “objectively”.
“When there is material, it has to be looked at objectively – is it factual, is it false but pretends to be factual, or is it satire, parody, opinion and so on,” Shanmugam told reporters in response to queries regarding the controversial MLC infographic shared by the Council to the public earlier this month.
Shanmugam said that while he understands “what the MLC was trying to say”, he acknowledged that the Council had either “made a mistake or it didn’t get said accurately”.
MLC has yet to issue a statement on the matter as of press time.