Sunday 7 January 2018

Select Committee to look into fake news threat; public hearings in March 2018

Committee of MPs to consider online falsehoods issue including the need for legislation
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam to move motion in Parliament to get feedback on response to online falsehoods
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 6 Jan 2018

A rarely used parliamentary process is being kick-started to garner public feedback over the issue of "fake news" online - and to decide if Singapore should introduce laws to combat it.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam will be moving a motion in Parliament on Wednesday, 10 January, to appoint a Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods.

This committee will take submissions from the public and hold public hearings to gather feedback before reporting to Parliament with its recommendations, which will also be published.

If appointed, it will be chaired by Deputy Speaker Charles Chong and comprise seven MPs from the ruling People's Action Party, one member from the opposition and one Nominated MP. The members have to be nominated by a Committee of Selection, which is led by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.

This is a change in approach from that articulated by Mr Shanmugam previously. Last June, he said that new legislation to tackle fake news is likely to be introduced this year.

"A Select Committee process provides a platform to study the problem carefully, to talk to experts and other stakeholders, and to involve members of the public," said a government spokesman.

The Law Ministry (MinLaw) did not say why it is not proposing that laws be enacted immediately this year.

It is uncommon for the Government to set up a select committee to examine policy issues.

The last time was 22 years ago, in 1996, when a Select Committee looked into the healthcare subsidy of government polyclinics and public hospitals.

Yesterday, MinLaw and the Ministry of Communications and Information also issued a Green Paper on the issue. It is a discussion paper containing proposals on an issue for public discussion.

The last time one was issued was three decades ago, in 1988.

The new 21-page document said Singapore should be prepared ahead of time for the "real and serious challenges" posed by online falsehoods.

It said that there is a high risk of foreign interference through such falsehoods, and added that Singapore is an attractive target, being among the most open and globally connected countries in the world. It is also vulnerable, being a multi-racial and religiously diverse society, added the paper.

The paper said that while discourse and debate should remain open, "dissemination of deliberate falsehoods, particularly if this is done covertly, attacks the very heart of democracy" by preventing constructive discourse.

With Singapore's strict rules against foreign interference in its politics, through existing laws such as the Political Donations Act, the same rules should apply to cyberspace, the paper added.

It noted the role of technology as well, such as automated bots that act like and interact with accounts of real people, spreading spam on social media networks.

Calling the formation of a committee a positive step, Mr Benjamin Ang, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the deliberate spreading of destabilising falsehoods online is a problem "that no single ministry or agency can handle alone".

But he cautioned that heavy use of legislation can be counterproductive if it ends up drawing more attention to the fake news.

On the Government's change of tack in having further consultation instead of introducing new laws directly, Professor Lim Sun Sun of the Singapore University of Technology and Design said: "I think that there is interest to make the process more open and consultative because the online space is everyone's."

Political analyst Felix Tan added that this move shows the changing nature of public policymaking in Singapore. He said: "I think it is becoming more open and gives people a voice in policymaking, rather than being done in a top-down manner."

How other countries are fighting spread of falsehoods
The Straits Times, 6 Jan 2018

France is planning to introduce draft legislation that will require websites to identify the people who sponsor content, while the US is studying a law that will require online companies to release information on who exactly their advertisers are targeting.

These are examples of how countries around the world are combating online falsehoods, cited by the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Communications and Information in its Green Paper on the issue. In a statement released yesterday, MinLaw said the Government will be asking Parliament to appoint a Select Committee to study the problem and recommend how Singapore should respond.

Here are some examples of how France, Germany and the US are tackling the problem.


On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he will introduce draft legislation that will require websites to make public the identities of those who sponsor content.

Under the proposed law, there will also be a cap on the amount of sponsored content on websites.

The law also deals specifically with falsehoods spread during election time, and provides for emergency procedures to be introduced during such periods. These allow judges to remove content, close user accounts or block websites that publish false information during elections.


The country enacted a Network Enforcement Act last year, requiring social networks that have more than two million German users to take down illegal content within 24 hours of it being flagged.

Such content includes hate speech and defamation, but where falsehoods are used to further hate speech, they can be removed through this legislation as well.

Failure to do so could result in fines of up to €50 million (S$80 million).


Senators have proposed an Honest Ads Act which deals with political advertisements.

People who take out such ads on television, radio or print have to disclose who funded the advertisements under the law.

It will also require digital companies to release information on who the advertisers and the buyers of the advertisements are targeting.

Move recognises need to build consensus, but time is of the essence
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 6 Jan 2018

Around 20 journalists packed a conference room at the Home Affairs Ministry yesterday, initially wondering how their industry would be affected by impending regulations on online falsehoods.

After all, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said last June that new legislation is likely to be introduced this year to combat "fake news". The new law would "de-legitimise fake news, help people identify what is and what is not fake news, and deal with the perpetrators of fake news", he said.

But there were few clues yesterday on details of the proposed law. Instead, in a surprise move, the Government said it would ask Parliament to set up a Select Committee to deliberate on the matter. It also put up a Green Paper setting out topics for discussion.

Between June last year and this week, the Government decided to change its approach - from directly legislating on the matter, to subjecting the issue to a longer process of deliberation via a parliamentary Select Committee.

This acknowledges the need for a wider conversation and more time to build consensus on the issue.

Taking this new route, the committee can organise public hearings and take the time it needs to incorporate views from civil society, experts and companies.

In these public hearings, as with past Select Committees, it is not enough to simply state an opinion. Anyone making a submission must be able to back it up with evidence and proper justification. This can lead to further reflection and perhaps deeper studies on the issue.

There are no easy answers to questions that are likely to arise: Who decides what is truthful or false? How can the law be tailored to impact only deliberately malicious news sources? And what happens when a politician is behind misinformation as some politicians abroad have been known to do?

In creating a law to fight a great evil, legislators must also be careful not to enable another.

Legislative overreach is a key concern, said media and technology expert Lim Sun Sun, adding that "the greater the range of views canvassed, the better".

Cyber-security academic Benjamin Ang said any new law should provide for judicial oversight and an independent party to verify what is fake or real.

Fake news legislation will touch on important matters, from national security to the right to express an opinion (even poorly informed ones). It deserves more time and space for a considered debate.

But the Select Committee should act quickly as there is not a lot of time before the next election, when Singapore is arguably most vulnerable to disinformation campaigns by foreign agents - a key threat identified in the Green Paper.

Researchers found hundreds of Russia-based fake social media accounts trying to divide Britons during the 2016 Brexit referendum. Britain has since set up its own Select Committee to look into falsehoods spread during the vote.

Singapore's general election is due by April 2021, leaving three years or less for a number of things to happen. The Select Committee must be set up before the public can make submissions. It has to draw up recommendations, and Parliament must then debate and decide which recommendations to accept.

In the interim, Singapore has to rely on existing legal tools to deal with falsehoods which can create unnecessary panic or distrust. These tools will not work on foreign sources, bots or phantom accounts.

While there is no cause to rush to a solution, time is not exactly on our side.

* Parliament: Select Committee to examine fake news threat in Singapore
Vote to form panel of MPs unanimous, but some warn against heavy-handed legislation
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2018

As the reach and impact of fake news grows, Parliament has voted unanimously to form a committee of MPs that will recommend how Singapore should tackle the problem, including possibly passing new laws.

This followed a debate in the House yesterday, during which backbenchers raised their concerns about online disinformation which has manifested itself in a number of hoaxes here, but also cautioned against "heavy-handed" legislation.

With all 80 MPs who were in the House at the time - including eight of the nine Workers' Party MPs - voting yes, the committee will canvass for public feedback once formed. It will comprise 10 MPs - seven from the ruling People's Action Party, one from the WP, one Nominated MP (NMP) and the committee leader, Deputy Speaker Charles Chong.

Forming a Select Committee to examine a policy is a rarely used parliamentary procedure. The last time one gave policy recommendations was in 2004, for a Bill on building maintenance and management.

Yesterday's motion was proposed by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam who also submitted a Green Paper on the issue. Singapore, he said, is highly susceptible to organised and deliberate disinformation campaigns trying to interfere with democratic processes, destabilise societies and undermine institutions.

Forming a Select Committee will allow for broad dialogue, and for Singaporeans to hear directly from experts as well as voice their own concerns or suggestions, he added.

The dangers of fake news were also emphasised by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who brought up the advent of new video and audio editing technologies that can easily allow perpetrators to impersonate others, including heads of state.

"We are a small and multiracial society that can be easily overwhelmed by a larger adversary taking advantage of our societal fault lines," he said.

A total of 11 MPs and NMPs came forward to support the move in a three-hour-long debate, highlighting their own encounters with fake news and suggesting solutions.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), who is FairPrice's chief executive, said he still receives feedback over a 2007 fake story of "halal pork" allegedly being sold in FairPrice outlets, which went viral on the Internet and caused a stir.

Others voiced their concerns over the freedom to express opinion, pointing out that a heavy-handed approach can stifle legitimate dissenting views.

Mr Seah said: "Heavy-handed legislation may backfire on the Government, acting as the judge, jury and executioner of what constitutes credible information. We may end up freezing free speech online."

NMP Kok Heng Leun queried if existing legislation is adequate, while Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked the committee to be mindful of measures introduced that could be used to silence government critics or the opposition.

Addressing the concerns, Mr Shanmugam said the precise form and ambit of any measure to be proposed is something for the Select Committee to consider. "My own view is that combating falsehoods is not contrary to the exercise of freedom of speech. In fact, keeping falsehoods out of our discourse enables freedom of speech to be meaningfully exercised," he said.

New video and audio technologies push bounds of reality, says Yaacob Ibrahim
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 10 Jan 2018

New technologies now make it easier to create false information and damage societies, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

He cited examples of the latest software and research that can allow perpetrators to impersonate anyone, including heads of state.

One such technology allows videos of people talking to be manipulated in a way that their expressions depict, in real time, what the perpetrators intend to convey. This was demonstrated by professors at Stanford University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in 2016.

Another, developed by software maker Adobe called "Photoshop for audio", also allows users to edit voice in a manner that makes it "virtually indistinguishable" from the target's real voice and does not sound computer-generated at all, he said.

"Singapore is especially vulnerable to this," Dr Yaacob told Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 10), as he spoke in support of the motion to convene a select committee to discuss deliberate online falsehoods.

He cited a poll conducted by the Government last May, which found that one in four Singaporeans frequently came across online news that was not fully accurate; two in three were unable to recognise some or all of the falsehoods; and one in four of them admitted to sharing news that they later found was fake.

"We are a small and multiracial society that can be easily overwhelmed by a larger adversary taking advantage of our societal fault lines... People can easily access the Internet and social media on their smartphones anytime and anywhere, and hence are more susceptible to the spread of online falsehoods," said Dr Yaacob.

He noted that Singapore has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, at almost 150 per cent.

While Singapore's first line of defence against fake news is still media literacy and public education efforts by agencies such as the Media Literacy Council and the National Library Board, this is not enough, said Dr Yaacob.

He gave three examples of how falsehoods were spread here and caused public anger. In 2015, socio-political website The Real Singapore published a fabricated article on a Filipino family purportedly complaining about the noise from a Thaipusum procession involving Indian Singaporeans. Going further back, The Singapore Herald had launched a misinformation campaign in the early 1970s while, in 1971, The Eastern Sun had received HK$8 million from a communist intelligence agency to publish articles of their choice.

Mechanisms need to be put in place to respond swiftly to such falsehoods, he said.

"We were fortunate to nip these in the bud early enough, so that these campaigns did not sink our young nation back in the day. But today, such orchestrated campaigns can wreak even more harm," said Dr Yaacob.

He added that the Government is not against the use of technology but "the people and actors abusing" it to spread online falsehoods.

He supported the call for a select committee to consult widely on online falsehoods and to tap the collective wisdom of the community and stakeholders.

Said Dr Yaacob: "We need a broader national conversation about this issue, so everyone has a shared understanding of the threat, and a sense of ownership about the solution."

MPs discuss balance between malicious falsehoods and opinions in fake news debate
Concerns over where to draw the line in fighting fake news
Combating falsehood not contrary to freedom of speech: Shanmugam
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2018

As Singapore prepares to fight fake online news, Members of Parliament yesterday debated the topic of where to draw the line that should not be crossed.

One of the questions posed was: How does Singapore ensure that new laws to tackle online falsehoods will not end up impeding citizens' rights to free speech?

"How do we distinguish those who knowingly create or spread online falsehoods from those who are just expressing their opinions?" asked Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

She was responding to a motion moved by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam to form a Select Committee to examine the problem of online falsehoods. This was passed unanimously by all 80 MPs present yesterday.

This 10-MP Select Committee will come up with countermeasures, which could include legislation, against the threat of such fake news.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun highlighted the need to define what a deliberate falsehood is and distinguish it from biased, but legitimate, commentaries.

He also called for a deeper look at existing laws. These include the Telecommunications Act - where knowingly transmitting a false message could lead to a fine and jail term - and the Protection from Harassment Act and Sedition Act, which already go some way towards curbing online falsehoods. This was seen in a previous case where founders of The Real Singapore were jailed for a series of seditious articles.

"This demonstrates that our current existing laws and provisions have been effective," he argued.

"We do not want a heavy-handed approach that will root out constructive, though at times disagreeing, voices," added Mr Kok.

He called for the Select Committee to balance the interests of protecting national security and public order, with the interests of individuals who want to have "meaningful discussions on issues of concern, including government policies", and also that of the media to report on such matters.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) noted that the extent of government involvement "requires deep discussion". "We may end up freezing free speech online," he said. "Legislation, if overly relied on, may also weaken the ability of society to educate themselves and discern what is real or not for themselves."

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) suggested that the Select Committee pay attention to whether any proposed measures would silence the opposition and critics of the Government.

In response, Mr Shanmugam said combating falsehoods is not contrary to the exercise of freedom of speech. He added: "In fact, keeping falsehoods out of our discourse enables freedom of speech to be meaningfully exercised."

He added that in responding to falsehoods, there may be a need to take into account their nature and the intention behind them.

Mr Shanmugam noted Mr Kok's point that fake news is used to divide and mislead society, and his question on how this segues into biased commentary.

In response, he said that strongly held viewpoints based on inaccuracies is one kind of falsehood.

However, its impact would be different from deliberate, targeted fake news, and these are matters that should be considered.

During yesterday's debate, Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan also said that users should be equipped to be the first line of defence against fake news.

To tackle fake news, several MPs also stressed the need to educate the public. Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) said that legislation should be a part of a "wider, more multi-pronged approach" where media literacy is key.

Nominated MP Ganesh Rajaram added that education can start as early as in pre-school.

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) added: "What is important is discernment, and not just disbelief."

"Empowering people to discern between truth and lies is of paramount importance," he said. "Only then, can we increase our resistance to the insidiousness of falsehood."

Fines, fact-checkers, education among ideas to fight scourge
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2018

A slew of suggestions were given by Members of Parliament yesterday on ways to tackle, if not terminate, the growing scourge of deliberate falsehoods posted online.

These include imposing fines on websites that do not remove fake content, using university students as independent fact-checkers and introducing critical thinking in schools' curriculum to develop a generation with a "healthy scepticism of online information".

The burst of ideas came after a move by Law Minister K. Shanmugam to get parliamentary permission to assemble a Select Committee, comprising 10 MPs, to analyse the issues and produce recommendations on lines of action.

One very likely measure is legislation. It is among the proposals in a recent government document called the Green Paper, which sets out the possible courses of action, including policy measures. The paper also gave actions taken by other countries.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) suggested that the Government examine laws that countries such as Germany and New Zealand have enacted to take down false content.

Germany's law against hate speech, known as NetzDG, allows its government to order sites to remove such unlawful content. Systemic breaches can result in fines of up to €50 million (S$80 million).

"The European Union, UK and France are considering similar take-down laws," said Mr Zaqy, who was among 13 members of the House to speak on the motion.

New Zealand takes a different approach. Its Harmful Digital Communications Act allows the courts to order a right of reply, or to correct false statements about individuals, he added.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) suggested that the Select Committee discuss the responsibilities of social media and tech companies, as well as educating people to discern what is fake news.

Some, like Nominated MP (NMP) Kok Heng Leun, suggested multiple independent fact-checking bodies.

Mr Kok said: "As the world becomes more complex, no one person or institution can claim to have all information, everyone contributes in discovering (what is true)."

NMP Mahdev Mohan called for a network of fact-checkers to be formed to correct and report misinformation on social media.

He also suggested that the Government could block the ads of websites "to reduce or eliminate the financial incentives to generate fake news traffic".

"These networks can be state-driven, such as the Government-owned website Factually, or ground-up efforts such as the United States' International Fact-Checking Network, or," he added.

NMP Ganesh Rajaram urged the Government to consider marshaling social media influencers to get the word out swiftly when a piece of news is fake.

"While we all know that our very own Prime Minister is one of the biggest social media influencers in Singapore because of his number of followers, there are others who also have a wide reach," he said.

Stressing the importance of immediately correcting fake news that could trigger nationwide panic, Mr Ganesh said mainstream media can lead the charge.

On education efforts, nearly all the MPs argued for media literacy and critical thinking to be part and parcel of the school curriculum.

NMP K. Thanaletchimi said students can learn to spot cues to uncover misinformation and question misleading sources, instead of simply believing anything they read.

"Eventually, we hope to culti-vate a generation with a healthy scepticism of online information," she added.

Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) suggested the committee commission "detailed and prolonged studies" to understand how Singaporeans consume news and how social media shape their understanding.

Mr Kwek said: "A clear understanding of news consumption patterns will be necessary to help us calibrate policy, so that we can balance a healthy discourse with necessary intervention."

Fake news and its real consequences
One MP's moving speech acts as reminder that real lives are at stake in war on fake news
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2018

When race riots broke out in Singapore and Malaysia in 1969, Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) was just eight. But she had no trouble understanding what her mother meant when she said that Ms Lee's newborn baby brother may have to be "left behind".

Ms Lee grew up on a rubber plantation in Malacca. In the tense days after the 1969 general election in Malaysia - when the opposition made big strides - false rumours of violent attacks between races triggered actual attacks, and soon escalated into a full-scale race riot.

The clashes spilt across the Causeway, taking four lives here and injuring another 80, over seven senseless days.

Ms Lee said: "Those who are my age or older will remember the terror and bloodshed of those few days."

Her family were gathered at a neighbour's house for the night - to seek safety in numbers - when she had that fateful conversation.

"I remember my mother telling me, 'If the Malays come tonight, we will all have to flee quickly into the forest. We have to leave xiao didi (little brother) behind,' " she recounted in Parliament yesterday, her voice shaking with emotion.

Presumably, the baby's cries would have exposed their whereabouts - risking more lives.

She continued: "I knew what my mother meant, and felt very helpless. All I could hope for was that the moment to leave didi behind would not come."

Ms Lee was among 13 MPs who spoke during the debate on whether to form a Select Committee to deliberate and make recommendations on how best to tackle online falsehoods.

In a moving speech that was the highlight of the 41/2-hour sitting, Ms Lee's personal story drove home the potentially devastating consequences of fake news.

MPs drew on examples from the pre-Internet era to show that the concept of fake news is not novel. They also cited more recent ones, to highlight how the exponential rise in the speed of communications has made the task of countering it much more complex.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) recalled a fake report of a roof collapse at a Housing Board block in her constituency. The 2016 hoax was posted on the website All Singapore Stuff and taken down just 30 minutes later. But in that time, "many things happened".

She said: "I was on the phone in seconds, calling up my town council, calling up my grassroots leaders to rush there as soon as they could, while I drove there from another part of town.

"SPF, SCDF dispatched vehicles and manpower. Residents congregated at the scene. Other residents texted to say they were rushing home.

"This might be someone's idea of a joke, but it wasn't a very efficient use of time and resources," she said.

Her story is significant because of the involvement of first responders - the police and civil defence. They could have been attending to other, more urgent matters.

But, more importantly, it is a scenario that can be used by terrorists (as has happened in other parts of the world) either to distract first responders before carrying out an actual attack somewhere else or to lure these responders in so as to target them.

Among the 13 MPs who spoke were ministers K. Shanmugam and Yaacob Ibrahim, seven People's Action Party (PAP) backbenchers and four Nominated MPs.

The nine Workers' Party MPs, who were all in Parliament, chose not to speak - a somewhat unexpected decision, since they weigh in during most debates - whether on Bills or motions.

It is perhaps because the WP avoided stating its view that Mr Shanmugam, who as Law Minister tabled the motion on forming a Select Committee, decided to call for a division at the end of the debate. This requires each MP in the chamber to cast a formal vote, instead of voting by voice.

Explaining why he wanted one, Mr Shanmugam said: "This is an important motion on an important issue. I think it is good to have on record the position of members."

The motion was carried by all 80 MPs present, including eight of the nine Workers' Party MPs. Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) had left by the time of the vote.

But not speaking up was probably a missed opportunity for the WP to steer the debate. That said, there will still be occasion for the opposition party to articulate its position: One Workers' Party MP will sit on the Select Committee, and Workers' Party MPs can also debate the committee's report and its proposals.

Yesterday, it took a People's Action Party MP - Ms Lee - to speak up for the silent opposition.

Even after warning of the clear dangers posed by fake news, she expressed two concerns: "Will (future legislation) impede freedom of speech online? Will it be used against opposition parties or government critics?"

Ms Lee was not the only one who called on the committee to consider the matter carefully, and not to rush headlong into proposing knee-jerk or harsh legislation.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun noted that the successful prosecution in 2016 of the founders of the fake news site The Real Singapore showed that "existing laws and provisions have been effective". Other MPs suggested non-legislative options, like forming fact-checking bodies and raising media literacy.

A few MPs also said it was important that the definition of fake news did not implicate all and sundry - such as those who were not malicious in forwarding messages received from others, or those who held biased, poorly founded opinions.

Parliament's Committee of Selection must now decide which MPs will be on the Select Committee.

After her impassioned speech yesterday, eyes will be on Ms Lee to see if she is picked. But even if she is not, the Select Committee will not easily forget the story of her baby brother.

It is a poignant reminder that real lives are at stake in the war on fake news - and that if things come to a crunch, it may well be the weakest and most vulnerable who take the first hit.

Select Committee on fake news: Panel 'will ensure space for healthy discourse'
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2018

The day-old Select Committee on fake news will strive to ensure there is space for healthy discourse even as it recommends ways to tackle deliberate falsehoods posted online.

Its chairman Charles Chong, who is also Deputy Speaker of Parliament, gave the assurance yesterday after announcing earlier in the day the names of the MPs who will form the 10-member committee.

He said in an interview with The Straits Times there is some apprehension among people that even when "they may misspeak or may not be accurate in what they say'', their remarks will be taken as a serious offence.

The formation of the Select Committee took place after a meeting called by the Committee of Selection in Parliament yesterday, the day after the House voted unanimously for its establishment.

Apart from Mr Chong, the rest of the members comprise three office-holders, four People's Action Party (PAP) MPs, one Workers' Party MP and a Nominated MP (NMP).

The office-holders are Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary. The PAP MPs are Mr Seah Kian Peng, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Ms Sun Xueling and Mr Edwin Tong. The remaining two are Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh and NMP Chia Yong Yong.

The committee's mandate is to examine and report on causes and consequences of online falsehoods, and to propose countermeasures, including legislation, that may be needed.

Mr Chong said its first meeting will be held as soon as possible.

"(The issue of fake news) is quite an urgent problem in terms of what is going on in the rest of the world. Listening to the debate (on Wednesday), we felt that while we want to come up with recommendations expeditiously, we also want to do a thorough job," he added.

Based on Wednesday's parliamentary debate, there was consensus on the need to "say 'yes' to alternative views, but not alternative facts", Mr Chong said.

He also said experts will be consulted, but no timeline has been fixed on when the committee will complete its work.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post yesterday that the Select Committee will seek public feedback, and urged Singaporeans to share their views.

"Fake news became a talking point last year," PM Lee wrote. "But it has affected livelihoods and divided societies for far longer.

"The difference now is fake news can spread in a matter of hours, on social media or text messaging. Singapore, highly connected and wired up, is especially vulnerable."

He added: "Everyone needs to be part of the solution, by checking that story before you click the Forward button!"

** Select Committee of MPs on fake news named
The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2018

The names of the MPs who will form the Select Committee that will look into ways Singapore can tackle online fake news were announced yesterday, one day after Parliament voted for its formation.

The 10-member list was unveiled by Deputy Speaker Charles Chong, who will chair the committee.

The rest comprise three office-holders, four People's Action Party (PAP) MPs, one Workers' Party MP and a Nominated MP (NMP).

The office-holders are Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary. The PAP MPs are Mr Seah Kian Peng, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Ms Sun Xueling and Mr Edwin Tong.

The remaining two are Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh and NMP Chia Yong Yong.

The committee's mandate is to examine and report on causes and consequences of online falsehoods, and to propose countermeasures.


*** Select Committee on fake news seeks public's suggestions, will hold open hearings in March 2018
Public can write in on causes, consequences of online falsehoods and propose solutions
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2018

A Select Committee tasked to look into ways Singapore can tackle online fake news is inviting members of the public to submit their views and suggestions on the matter.

These suggestions should be submitted by the end of next month, ahead of public hearings the committee expects to hold in the second half of March, the committee announced yesterday.

The submissions can relate to issues that fall within the committee's mandate, which is to examine and report on causes and consequences of online falsehoods, and to propose countermeasures, including legislation that may be needed.

Deputy Speaker Charles Chong, the chairman of the 10-member committee, said: "The committee's work will be assisted by hearing a wide range of views from the public. I encourage everyone with an interest in this subject to write in with their views and suggestions."

He added that he has asked members of the committee to reach out to individuals and organisations who will add useful perspectives to its work.

The submissions can be made in English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil.

They can be sent via mail to The Clerk of Parliament, Parliament House, 1 Parliament Place, Singapore 178880; or via e-mail to

The Select Committee may publish the submissions it receives.

Apart from Mr Chong, the committee comprises three office-holders, four People's Action Party MPs, one Workers' Party MP and a Nominated MP (NMP).

The Select Committee was formed last week, after Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, now one of the committee members, tabled a motion in Parliament on the matter. The motion was carried after all 80 MPs present voted to support it, including opposition MPs and NMPs.

In a 21-page Green Paper published ahead of the motion, the Government also set out what it saw as the threat from online falsehoods. It cited examples of coordinated disinformation campaigns by foreign countries to interfere in elections - including last year's German federal election and the 2016 United States presidential election.

The committee will submit its recommendations to Parliament after the public hearings and deliberations.

Ministry of Law: Select Commitee On Deliberate Online Falsehoods: Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures -5 Jan 2018
Motion Speech by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Appoint Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods -10 Jan 2018
New laws against fake news to be introduced in 2018: Shanmugam

Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods - Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures

Public Hearings on Fake News:
- 14 - 16 March 2018
- 22 - 23 March 2018

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