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Social media has become part of Singaporeans’ lives. Citizens aged between youths and adults have at least own an account in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp. It is no doubt that these interactive technologies have enable us to be connected with people from far distance, and it is very efficient for users to obtain information needed through these apps or search engines like Google or Safari. However, many are starting to abuse this platform by spreading false news through online and it is hard to tell which is true or false. Online falsehoods can be in different kinds of forms, it could be a fake post, an edited video, an unclear picture or even a chain of spam messages. According to Minister of Law (2018), such disinformation can look real with the use of advanced expertise such as digital manipulation technology. It is stated that “researchers at the University of Washington produced a realistic video of then-President Obama speaking, using artificial intelligence to precisely imitate how the then-President moved his mouth during speeches”.
According to Romero (2018), online disinformation is a serious threat as there is much more widespread access for anyone to make and spread content through online. On top of that, Studies has shown that two-third of Singaporeans were uncertain of which post is true or false, and one-quarter of them found out that the shared information was false (govsingapore, 2018). Thus, there has been a debate about whether should the Government enact more laws to avoid online falsehoods. While some argued that the government should make a new legislation, many are against it and agree to the concept that implementing of new laws does not stop online falsehoods from spreading in Singapore. A glance into one of the issues that enacting more laws does not help to combat online falsehoods. Mr Xu (2018) claims that citizens’ rights of expressing their feelings and thoughtson may be affected if new legislation is endorsed (The Straits Time, 2018).
Furthermore, there should be “freedom” of information act where citizens are exposed with information in social media whether it is true or not. According to the opposing views, this would allow them to share their opinions and thoughts on the issue and become more aware through this process of engagement (Yuen-C, 2018). Thus, introducing a new law would combat online falsehoods nonethelessbut may restrict the citizens to have free speech or gaining access to more sources of information. Apart from that, the opposing views find that the existing laws like Parliamentary Elections Act, Telecommunications Act and the Penal Codes are adequate enough to combat online falsehoods as they have the authority against spreading of fake news against particular institutions or individuals. Moreover, according to MARUAH (2018), the Government has yet to specify the danger of self-radicalisation by extremist websites when justifyingvindicating new legislation against online falsehoods. Thus, (Mahmud, 2018). Thus, the opposing views do not find that there was a lack of examples and there is nore is a need to make new laws as the existing laws are sufficient enough (Mahmud, 2018). . Yet another problem, it is warned that new legislation may resulted to the opposite effect and the government may backfire especially when the new law is used in the wrong state of affairs. Singapore is in a vulnerable state as it is a multi-racial country and a potential target for other countries – thus, it is a sensitive issue for religious or racial groups. It may feed the anger and these intolerant groups may rebel and they would protest more towards the Government for enacting more laws.
Moreover, it can also have unintentional effect instead. By taking down every false information in social medias make citizens frame that the Government has a conspiracy and an agenda behind it. (Yuen-C, 2018). Admist the disagreement issues and complication on whether the Government should make new legislations, several committee members, such as Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, however, have strongly emphasised that new law is necessary (Yuen-C, 2018). A real-life example of online falsehoods that happened in Singapore – the government has exposed that there was a disinformation and misinterpretation about ministerial salaries that have been spreading through several websites lately (Channel NewsAsia, 2018). Many has recommended to create a law that can take down or prevent access to online falsehoodfalsehoods immediately, whether by captivating people or technology platforms to eliminate the illegal content or blocking them. Additionally, the government should have the authority to destruct the spread of online disinformation (The Straits Times, 2018). One cannot deny that online falsehoods is a potential threat to Singapore and enacting more laws in regards to this issue may prevent it. However, instead of endorsing more laws which may have the opposite effect or are not effective enough, there are other alternative ways that could combat this threat.
According to The Straits Times (2018), the government could urge Ministry of Education to enhance students’ learning on media literacy especially for secondary and tertiary students as they are prone to have easy access to social medias. For instance, educate them on the tactics and strategies to combat online falsehoods. In addition, provide on-going trainings for media journalists in methods for ensuring accuracy in their journals and standardise the media platforms that will be held. Lastly, public institutions are also recommended to have provision of time to the public response to misinformation. We should always be aware of the information that we are sharing in our social medias and always look out for the right source of information before sharing it to other people. It is also a good practice for citizens to be always truthful whether in their media platforms or not because small act goes a long way, and it has the potential to combat online falsehoods without enacting more laws.
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