Yesterday, social media platforms Facebook, Google and Twitter were invited to give their opinions in person on new censorship laws, only to get a lashing from the Law Minister. What I find puzzling initially was why these platforms given a stage to air their opinion, because these “platforms” are merely a vehicle to deliver content, regardless fake or real. Facebook should not be responsible for propagating fake news as much as the inventor of AR-15 be responsible for wars and mass murder attacks, or Singtel being responsible for fraudulent calls, or Microsoft being responsible for hackers using windows, or your postman being responsible for junk mail…you catch my drift.
Asking Facebook for an opinion on fake news is only as good as asking SIRI whether is fast food good for your health. What do you expect Shanmugam?
Facebook executive Simon Milner’s responses were easy to understand, but the snake of a minister felt disrespected. When the dictator wants a “yes”, you don’t give an open-ended response. Stopping short of sending Simon Milner to the firing squad, K Shanmugam was clearly dissatisfied to be talked back.
Simon Milner was right to not take his brow beating and stuck to explaining Facebook’s policies. The Law Minister was clearly asking leading questions, making irrelevant paraphrases to suit his political agenda. It became interesting that the public hearing became a lecturing session from K Shanmugam, with him alone talking throughout the session while the other 9 Select Committee members sat quietly. It was then clear: there is no Select Committee, it is only Shanmugam’s Committee.
As usual, after losing a debate, K Shanmugam attacked the credibility of Simon Milner. K Shanmugam tried to make Facebook out as an irresponsible corporation by referring to the recent data leak scandal. Why would the data leak scandal be even relevant at the hearing I don’t know. Instead, the minister’s eloquence yesterday had people questioning if that is indeed the calibre of a senior counsel, or whether his bullying behaviour is befitting of a Law Minister.
A green paper was conveyed for the first time in 30 years, a 10-member Select Committee and now an invite-only hearing consulting fake “experts”. All the troubles went through in the name to ban “deliberate fake news”.
The aim could not be clearer: Law Minister K Shanmugam is desperate to ban States Times Review. Temasek Review, The Real Singapore and now the States Times Review. I am honoured to have partaken of the earlier two banned editorial, and am equally delighted that my articles today warranted similar censorship actions. States Times Review is only alive because it is an Australian website, out of reach from local jurisdiction banning corrosive criticisms (in all fairness, the Singapore government stomach mild criticisms i.e. TheOnlineCitizen, they could however never accept anyone calling out nepotism or legalised corruptions.)
However, I am a realist and I know the eventual outcome of it all will be a court order ban, as K Shanmugam put it to Simon Milner: You realise the courts take actions by legislation.