Singapore passes ‘fake news’ law following researcher outcry

Academics say the regulation could stifle scholarly debate.

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Singapore’s parliament has passed a law that bans the spreading of “a false statement of fact” that harms the public interest. Researchers and human-rights groups opposed the regulation, and warn that it will stifle academic debate.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, which passed last week, authorizes Singapore’s ministers to order social media and messaging platforms to remove the material deemed false by authorities, or force them to run corrections. Penalties include up to ten years in jail for individuals and fines on companies or organizations of 1 million Singapore dollars (US$730,000).

A group of academics submitted a letter to the city-state’s education ministry on 11 April raising concerns that scholarly discourse could be stifled. The letter has since garnered 125 signatures, including many scholars based overseas. The letter noted that much of academic work focuses on disputing apparently established ‘facts’, and that even quantitative research deals in probabilities, not absolute certainties.

By: Mark Zastrow/Nature News

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