(Bloomberg) — A controversial “fake news” law in Singapore that critics worry will be used by authorities to clamp down on free speech took effect on Wednesday, according to the country’s government gazette.
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 would allow government ministers to be able to order a correction to be carried alongside a false or misleading claim, and material not in the public interest to be taken down.
As an aspiring regional hub for technology firms — Facebook Inc. and Google have large offices — Singapore is just one of many nations grappling with how to respond to propaganda and false information online. With general elections just around the corner in the city-state, the leader of a new opposition party worries the law could be used to muzzle dissent, though ministers have said legislation is needed to deal with the spread of misinformation that could undermine free speech.
Any company found in breach of the law and refuses to comply with corrective orders issued by the government could face fines of up to S$1 million (US$722,282), while individuals may serve up to ten years in prison. It will cost S$200 to file a court appeal to challenge a minister’s decision.
The new law had overwhelmingly won support in parliament in May with a 72 to 9 vote. According a notification published in the government gazette on Tuesday, the Ministry for Communications and Information has appointed the Info-communications Media Development Authority as the responsible body for enforcing the law.
(Updates with penalties in fourth paragraph.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Philip J. Heijmans in Singapore at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at [email protected], Joyce Koh
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