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News Link • Internet

When the Government Says You're Fake News


In the midst of a massive financial corruption scandal in Malaysia that led to the ouster of the country's prime minister, an independent online news outlet named States Times Review published a story last November claiming that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was being investigated and that his country's banks may have played a role in money laundering.

Leaders of Singapore's central bank were outraged, calling the claims "baseless and defamatory." The country's state-run media development agency ordered the story to be taken down. Site founder Alex Tan, a Singaporean political activist living in Australia, refused. So Singapore blocked access within the country to States Times Review and then asked Facebook to remove a post promoting the story. The social media site declined.

Singapore's leadership didn't take the refusal well. In April, legislation was introduced that would empower the government to demand that sites take down stories deemed—by the state—to be "fake news." Officials would also be able to force social media sites such as Facebook to include "warnings" on posts declared false. Resisting these orders and maligning the government could earn a person or company fines of up to $740,000 and potentially incarceration.