In the two weeks-long hearing over the legislation of new censorship laws for “fake news”, the Select Committee saw only opposition from three international media companies – Facebook, Google and Twitter – and the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The opposition however came at a hefty price, with Facebook executive Simon Milner being heavily interrogated and even questioned over an irrelevant topic on the recent data leak. The HRW’s submission was deemed too critical and labelled as “fake news”, resulting in possible prosecutions from the Singapore government. The HRW representative did not attend the hearing, possibly out of fear from persecution.
Scholars and academics from Singapore government universities however sang praises for stricter censorship laws. Carol Soon and Shawn Goh from the Lee Kuan Yew’s Institute called for the government to actively take actions against websites the government deemed as “fake news”. Mathew Mathews from NUS called for a ban on IP address especially for websites like States Times Review that do not allow direct communications.
Shashi Jayakumar from S Rajaratnam School said the government will have to create the new rules as the community will not self-regulate.
Foreigner Morteza Shahrezaye and Simon Hegelich from Germany supported censorship saying that the private sector needs to be involved.
15-year-old foreign student Zubin Jain called for “harsh legislation” saying it is the “best defence”.
State media reporters and Straits Times editor collectively called for a government-controlled “fact checking council” to define “fake news”.
Ukranian Ruslan Deynychenko said censorship is required or else Singaporeans “will one day wake up one morning to see everyone shooting each other with machine guns because the TV told them to hate each other”.
Some other government academics like Gillian Koh said that censorship is justified because it is a “national security issue”.