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Fake news Bill: Law Society refutes online flak over alleged silence

Fake news Bill: Law Society refutes online flak over alleged silence

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: 15 Apr 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

 The society has been invited to give feedback to the Government on the draft Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act and will be sharing its perspectives with the policymakers: Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran

The Law Society has come out to refute online flak about its so-called "deafening silence" over the draft Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, saying its views will be shared privately with policymakers.

Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran said that the society's governing council has previously been invited by the Government to give feedback on select Bills in accordance with the law and that this has been the ongoing arrangement.

"We do not, as a matter of practice, publicise the details of such discussions due to the confidentiality of the process, confidentiality being the precursor to candid exchanges," said Senior Counsel Vijayendran yesterday.

Last week, an online opinion piece posted on The Online Citizen singled out the Law Society for having seemed to be "noticeably silent" on the fake news Bill and questioned if the silence was to be taken as "tacit agreement" with the Government's stance on the Bill.

Mr Vijayendran said the attention of the Council of the Law Society has been drawn to online opinions (including rhetorical questions raised) about the society's role in engaging with the Government on the draft Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.

He added that the council wanted to clarify certain misconceptions about the facts and law related to the Law Society's engagement with the Government on draft laws.

He said the society has been invited to give feedback to the Government on the draft Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act and will be sharing its perspectives with policymakers.

"These consultations with the Government are established engagements to ensure better Bills even when we agree to disagree with the Government on some issues.

"Through such constructive consultations for the benefit of Singapore society as a whole, we play our part to meaningfully speak to the issues involved in draft legislation rather than be engaging in polemics."

Introduced in Parliament on April 1, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act seeks to arrest the spread of online falsehoods and protect society from damage by online falsehoods created by "malicious actors", said the Ministry of Law.

The proposed law, which is set to be debated in Parliament in the coming months, is aimed at giving the Government powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest.

A falsehood is defined as a statement of fact that is false or misleading; the term does not cover opinions, criticisms, satire or parody, which the public can continue to upload and share.

Only "malicious actors", or those who act deliberately to undermine society using falsehoods, will be subject to criminal action.

The courts will have the final say on what is false, which means that any decision by the Government on what is false can be overridden by the courts on appeal.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

 

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