Supreme Justice Minister Edwin Tong denounces Facebook's refusal to remove a post from the States Times Review, which argues that Singapore is involved in corrupt transactions in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
The decision, he said, shows that it allows it to become the platform for the spread of pseudo-cover that "poisons and divides societies" and encourages xenophobia and benefits from it, he said yesterday.
Mr Tong said in a drastic fashion that Facebook's denial was "surprising" as he had previously given assurances that he would work with the Singapore authorities to counter electronic lies.
The incident shows why goodwill of service platforms can not be relied upon to protect Singapore from misinformation campaigns, he said.
It also reinforces the setting-up of a parliamentary Selection Committee – which published a report in September on how to deal with false news – that legislative powers are needed to protect Singapore from deliberately electronic fake.
Mr Tong replied to Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), who asked about the views of the Ministry of Justice about the latest electronically false ones, according to which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the government have allowed money laundering 1MDB,.
On November 9, Regulatory Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) asked Facebook to remove the State Times Review post on its website but declined to do so. The position was linked to the article of November 5, "Lee Hsien Loong is the main research goal of 1MDB."
Facebook said last week, following media inquiries, that it does not have a policy banning allegedly false "except where this content has the potential to contribute to the upcoming violence or bodily harm."
POSSIBILITY FOR SERIOUS FIGHTING
As members will appreciate, the slow poisoning of poison, in a period of time, may break out one day in violence.
REPRESENTATIVE MINISTER OF EDUCA TOWN, EDWIN TONG, on Facebook saying he does not have a policy banning alleged illusions, "except where this content has the potential to contribute to impending violence or physical harm."
UNTRUTHS HAS FULLY FULFILLED
There is the old saying: Stories travel halfway around the world when the truth only puts on its boots … It seems that the illusion has been accelerating ever since.
MURALI PILLAI (Bukit Batok), on the pace at which lies lie on the internet.
Mr Tong said in this House that there are many situations where serious harm is caused, although there is no possibility of impending violence or bodily harm.
"As Members will appreciate, the slow poisoning of poison, in a period of time, may break into violence one day," he added.
Mr Tong also sought to show how quickly the recent electronically false ones spread.
Since November 8, three days after the Times Times Review article was posted, it had been shared about 1,600 times on Facebook.
Some of the shares were a "concerted effort" by a small group of seven users who spread across multiple Facebook groups and represented the fake news that may have seen more than 800,000 users who were members of these groups.
On November 7, the Times Times Review article was reproduced on the Spanish website The Coverage and was received by the Chinese newspaper Malaysian Press. By November 8th, China Press had been screened 45,000 times.
Mr Tong said that the spread of misinformation follows a pattern observed in other countries: "A lie first appears in a dark area and then takes on the main information medium that gives credibility to claims."
He cited two examples: A false allegation about the vulnerability of the United States Navy and a disinformation campaign against actor Morgan Freeman.
Recovering the Singapore government's response to fake news, he said the Singapore Monetary Authority had made a police report on the night of November 8th.
The UNHCR in Malaysia also issued a statement that the article was "clearly defamatory," and this was reported in many mainstream media in Malaysia.
Subsequently, many Malaysian publications, including China Press, remove articles from their websites.
After revising government hours, IMDA called on Internet service providers to block their website.
Mr Murali asked whether social media giants such as Facebook would have a different attitude if they were headed by an independent body such as the judiciary instead of a government agency.
Mr Tong reiterated that the government was "disappointed" by Facebook's failure to abolish the post and noted that the Times Times Review article reported an interview given by the editor of The Sarawak Report website.
But the Sarawak report itself said the article is misleading and wrong.
"Nevertheless, Facebook has failed to remove its content or block the Times Times Review Facebook page," he added.
Mr Tong said that at this point there are limited options to eliminate the spread and influence of such electronic hallucinations.
He added that there may be a need for levers to capture the spread of such fake news, a recommendation made by the Electronic Fake Selection Committee.
Asked by Mr Murali whether Facebook had been downgraded or abolished, Mr Tong said he did not look that way.
He added: "Our basic consideration is that rather than being downgraded or not ranked, it should not have first gone out of the way."