All three online service corporations Facebook, Google and Twitter sent in their representatives to attend Singapore’s public hearing on fake news expressing their opposition to Law Minister K Shanmugam’s proposal to enact more censorship laws.
Facebook wrote in their submission opposing new censorship laws:
“We do not believe that legislation is the best approach to addressing the issue. Singapore already has a variety of existing laws and regulations which address hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news.”
Facebook’s executive Simon Milner, the policy chief of Asia, criticised the government asking what is fake news and pointed out the Singapore state media ranks 151st out of 180 countries in press freedom.
“How do you define … what is a deliberate online falsehood and what is not? We are skeptical about that.”
Twitter’s executive, director for public policy in Asia Pacific, told the Law Minister that no one, even the government, is always truthful:
“No single company, governmental or non-governmental actor, should be the arbiter of truth. Instead, we see journalists, experts and engaged citizens tweeting side-by-side to affirm, correct and challenge public discourse in seconds.”
Law Minister K Shanmugam was clearly enraged by the opposition and attacked the companies of being incapable of regulating themselves, and diverted the discussion on the recent breach of user data by Facebook’s third party application.
Law Minister K Shanmugam then ask leading questions at the Facebook executive requiring only a “yes-no” answer, which the latter sharply pointed out that this is not fair to simply answer “yes or no”:
“K Shanmugam: Do you think you have a duty to take down falsehoods like Clinton running a paedophilia ring?
Facebook Simon Milner: Do not think it is fair to say yes or no to some thing like that. I am afraid to say sometime rumours turn out to be true, but I am absolutely not suggesting that (Clinton’s fake news) is true in this case. But there are rumours that become the truth, and if we to say you can’t publish anything untrue about Hillary Clinton, how do we know until somebody is able to help us in respect to that? Some of the things you mentioned are the kinds of things that nobody would believe but often these things are not as clear cut as you said.”
Law Minister K Shanmugam then started angrily attacked the Facebook executive:
“You are very anxious to answer questions I have never asked. So let me help you help me.”