Opinion | Singapore’s Bill on Online Falsehoods

To the Editor:

Re “This ‘Fake News’ Law Threatens Free Speech. But It Doesn’t Stop There” (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, May 30):

Jennifer Daskal’s predictions about how Singapore’s Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill might be used are wildly off base. The bill targets online falsehoods by requiring online service providers to correct or remove falsehoods that affect the public interest.

The government has made clear in public, including in the media, that the law does not empower the government to make “demands for a list of people who have viewed a particular piece of content.” Nor does it authorize the government to tell online platforms whom to monitor and why.

Also, the new law does not permit the government to compel encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp or iMessage to “identify who said what to whom.” What the government can do is require general corrections to be sent to all users — either on a closed messaging app, or any other platform — to correct falsehoods that have gone viral.

As for unencrypted platforms, Ms. Daskal herself admits that “user tracking is hardly a new thing.” Today, platforms like Facebook already display fact-checking notifications to users that shared false content. Such measures ensure that clarifications achieve their purpose, and reach the original audience that accessed the material.

Countries around the world are searching for solutions to the problem of fake news. Our law is designed for our own multiracial and multireligious context. The Singapore government will apply the law responsibly, not least because the courts, Parliament and the electorate will hold the government accountable if it does not.

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri
The writer is Singapore’s ambassador to the United States.

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