Experts: Legislation alone will not suffice; addressing problem of online falsehoods requires a concerted effort on multiple fronts (summarised translation)

Government’s plan to appoint a select committee to discuss problem of deliberate online falsehoods signals the complexity of the problem and recognition that it will involve a broad swathe of society and views from many stakeholders.

On the appointment of a select committee at this point in time, Professor Lim Sun Sun, Head of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design felt that with many other countries including Britain, France and Germany also actively tackling this issue, Singapore can glean lessons from their experiences in terms of the nature and efficacy of different possible measures.

She explained that the last US election and the UK’s Brexit referendum manifested the interference of deliberate online falsehoods in the discussion of issues of keen public interest. Singapore may also be similarly vulnerable. “Ours is a highly connected society with an ever growing proportion of our population relying heavily if not exclusively on the internet for information. In light of such circumstances, coupled with the growing sophistication of technological tools for the manipulation of news and fabrication of online falsehoods, media consumers will find it increasingly challenging to differentiate genuine news from deliberate online falsehoods.”

Professor Lim also felt that education is a critical linchpin in the fight against online falsehoods. “People need to be made to understand what the motivations are for fabricating online falsehoods, and how individuals and entities that engage in such activities stand to profit.”