S. Iswaran, Singapore’s communications and information minister.
Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Singapore’s communications and information minister, S. Iswaran, on Tuesday dismissed the view that his country’s “fake news” law is intended to stamp down on opposition parties.
“I think that’s hardly the case,” he told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore and Steve Sedgwick at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Iswaran said it’s widely recognized that digital technologies and communication platforms are great enablers for society, but there are potential risks such as the dissemination of misinformation. “I think there is a global dialogue. Different countries have been seeking out different methodologies to deal with it,” he said, referring to concerns around fake news.
“This is our approach to it. At the heart of it, it’s very simple: It’s a juxtaposition of the truth with the false statement or fact. That’s all that is required, and if the party concerned is aggrieved, they can have recourse,” Iswaran added. “We think it is a system that will work in our context and help address some of the concerns our citizens have.”
Singapore passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill in October last year, which dictates websites to run government “correction notices” alongside content it deems false. Under the law, the government will also be able to issue so-called “take down” orders that require the removal of content posted by social media companies, news organizations or individuals.
Last month, the government invoked the law to order an opposition party to publish corrections on two social media posts and an article on its website about local employment, Reuters reported. It was the first time the law had been used against a political party, according to the news wire.
Hong Kong’s instability
Iswaran, who is also the minister-in-charge of Singapore’s trade relations, spoke about the current instability in Hong Kong due to months of pro-democracy protests that have affected the city’s economy.
Singapore and Hong Kong are regional rivals for investment and talent. Some experts have said that Singapore stands to benefit from Hong Kong’s instability.
But, according to Iswaran, ongoing problems in Hong Kong or in any other regional market would have a dampening effect on the rest of the countries in the region as it would affect consumer and investor sentiments.
“In the case of Hong Kong, I think what we would like to see is an early and amicable resolution so that we can then go on with the larger issues of creating jobs and opportunities for people in the region,” he said.
— CNBC’s Ted Kemp contributed to this report.