Everyone should be on the alert for fake news: Ong, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Everyone should be on the alert for fake news: Ong

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The proposed fake news laws are targeted at the creators of falsehoods and not at those who disseminate them, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

He added that "everyone need not be overly worried", as the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act does not target opinions, criticisms, satire or parody.

Speaking at the Singapore Buddhist Federation's Vesak Day celebration event at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, Mr Ong said it is important to have strict laws to prohibit speech and actions that try to divide people of different religions and races.

"The Government must take action to prevent against the harm caused by online falsehoods on society," said Mr Ong.

The proposed laws would give all ministers the power to decide whether a statement is false or misleading and against public interest, which could lead to an order for a correction to be made or the statement to be removed.

Since its introduction in Parliament on April 1, the bill has triggered concerns among the public that it could lead to self-censorship and limit free speech.

The Government will address the worries and concerns over the new laws, and give detailed explanations of them, Mr Ong said.

"You ask, and we will answer, and we will solve these problems together," said Mr Ong.

But combating fake news will take more than just the law, and it is important for citizens to stand together to fight the spread of fake news, he added.

He said the recent terror attacks in Christchurch and Sri Lanka are stark reminders of the threats that Singapore faces in being an open and globally connected multi-racial and multi-religious society.

"We are not immune to hate speech and falsehoods that are deliberately created and spread with malicious intent to sow discord among the different communities," said Mr Ong.

"What we enjoy today is because of, and not in spite of, all the efforts we invested to maintain social and racial harmony. We shall not take it for granted."