Representatives from technology titans Facebook and Google have offered testimony before a parliamentary committee in Singapore in an effort to convince them that the introduction of new laws to combat ‘fake news’ would not have the desired effect.
They have argued that the existing legislation in place is already adequate enough to deal with the increasing problem of fake news.
A parliamentary committee has been established in a bid to examine potential measures that could be imposed, including legislation to tackle false online information which the government has claimed poses a direct threat to national security.
The executives representing Facebook, Twitter and Google appeared before the committee this week. A number of other experts, analysts and academics were also called to testify about the proposals that have been submitted by the Singaporean committee.
The financial hub is among several countries currently viewing legislation in an attempt to resolve the issues presented by the circulation of fake news. However, critics have warned that this type of legislation could be used to curb free speech. The Singaporean government has strenuously denied and rejected claims its objective is to restrict free speech.
In a submission given to the committee, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy in Southeast Asia, Alvin Tan said it was his and his company’s belief that this course of action was not the best approach to proceed with in order to combat the spreading of fake news.
He said, “Singapore already has a variety of existing laws and regulations which address hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news."
His comments come on the back of a controversy that has engulfed Facebook following revelations that UK-based data analysis firm Cambridge Analytics exploited the personal data of millions of Facebook users as part of its efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.
Google echoed the concerns raised by Facebook’s Head of Public Policy. A representative of the US firm said legislation was not an effective tool to alleviate the issue of fake news.
Google said, “We believe the most effective way of combating misinformation is through educating citizens on how to distinguish reliable from unreliable information. We should be promoting quality journalism in order to ensure that there is a robust network of fact-checking organizations providing reliable information and debunking falsehoods".
Singapore is ranked 151 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index by RSF. A number one ranking is the best you can achieve.