We review the four online petitions on Singapore’s anti-fake news law so you don’t have to

Photo: xiquinhosilva / Flickr
Photo: xiquinhosilva / Flickr

No need to thank us for doing God’s work: we’re happy to continue serving you with accurate information on the goings-on in Singapore and beyond.

As you might probably know, Singapore is known for two things: making petitions for almost anything (like the Watain and Nas Daily bans) and introducing a new law to weed out fake news (that has riled up academics and watchdogs).

You can read the 81-page document of the law here, or read our abridged version here.

Since we wanted to get a slice of what *real* Singaporeans thought of the law, we thought of checking out the next best thing: the change.org website for petitions.

As it turns out, there are four current petitions out there about this law on the website. Much like how we do our food reviews (which you must follow here), we’re breaking down these four petitions in our typical food review style so you can understand what you’re getting yourself into if you sign them.

Petition 1: Singapore Wants a Better Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA)

Progress: 67 signatories as of press time

(Photo: change.org)
(Photo: change.org)

This petition was started by Chong Lingying and appealed to the Singapore government to address public opinion and feedback on the law “especially with regards to the potential room for abuse”.

“The far-reaching policy will directly impact all end-users and creators of online content,” said Lingying. “It is thus my opinion that it must be scrutinized, debated, and refined to deserve a place in the letter of the law.”

Among the risks Lingying said the law could affect included abuse of power, moral hazard and conflict of interests.

Lingying feared the law will be passed “without meaningful improvements if citizens do not make our criticisms known”.

Verdict: If you are looking for a quick meal, this petition is a sumptuous one-bite with clear wording, personal concerns and links for further reading. It suffers a little bit from a lack of evidence about how exactly the risks will play out. Otherwise, a good meal if you’re in a rush to eat. Also, no forcing the meal down your throat here: the petition is not calling for the law to be banned. Just some slight tweaks will do.

The petition is available here.
Open 24 hours.

Petition 2: Say NO to Singapore’s proposed Fake News Law!

Progress: 519 signatories as of press time

(Photo: change.org)
(Photo: change.org)

This petition by Mel Ong is like that espresso bar down the street: short, strong and sharp. It started off with three questions, a classic in speech structure where people remember things in threes:

  • What constitutes fake news?
  • Who has the right to decide what is fake news?
  • Why are some people able to be exempted from the Fake News Law?

Mel then said that the law is “too broad n sweeping, and comes ahead of an upcoming General Election” (sic). The petition creator added the law might stifle free speech and freedom of expression.

The petition then ends abruptly with a clarion call: to say a big fat NO to members of parliament on the bill to let them know your concerns.

Verdict: If the first petition was a burger, this petition is an espresso shot. It’s strong, it’s tiny and it packs a punch. There’s only one thing to do here: down it or leave it. If you’d like more nuance in your food choices, this may not be it.

The petition is available here.
Open 24 hours.

Petition 3: Further scrutinize fake news draft legislation in Select Committee

Progress: 568 signatories as of press time

(Photo: change.org)
(Photo: change.org)

This petition from Sean Lim is for all of you fine-dining enthusiasts who love multiple courses in your meal, savoring all the intricacies and notes within each dish.

He wrote this petition but adapted it from a letter by former news editor Bertha Henson.

It is also far more substantial (and a bit more high-SES) than the other two petitions and claimed to be representative too, starting off with a very bold “Dear Leaders, we are citizens of Singapore”.

Sean then specifically used the language of the parliament and asked for a motion to be moved to refer the draft of the anti-fake news bill “to further scrutiny”. (In plain English: scrutinize the bill further instead of launching it.)

As the bill would be read a second time, he specifically asked for the third reading and final passage of the bill to be stalled in favor of further examination of the law.

While Sean noted that a committee had been formed to pore over the details of the bill, he said that “the next step must be an examination of the details which have so far been confounding to ordinary people like us”.

The petition said that:

  • Current laws are more focused on giving more power to key government officials and groups instead of ensuring checks were in place to prevent abuse of the laws
  • Decisive powers given to ministers who can take down what they think is false “seems unprecedented and leaves questions on the consistency of its application across the Cabinet members”
  • The law should add conditions for ministers to take down false facts, limits on how long an appeal can be considered for, and reasons for issuing takedowns should be published by ministers
  • Clarification whether the courts could be too restricted from the law and whether they could be given more discretion to decide what is fake news

Verdict: A super legit meal that will leave you feeling satisfied. If you are too low-SES though, this meal may just go over your head. (Tip: If you glazed over all the details, this petition might be too much for you to swallow.)

The petition is available here.
Open 24 hours.

Petition 4: Stop the new Singapore anti-fake news bill (law in the making) from becoming law in SG

Progress: 5 signatories as of press time

(Photo: change.org)
(Photo: change.org)

This petition by a user called Russian Player is sadly, the meal that no one wanted judging by its paltry five signatories thus far. But we don’t judge too harshly here at Coconuts Singapore, so we’re giving a chance to this petition to hopefully find its audience.

There is nothing much that is different in this petition than in other petitions, with similar remarks that the law would “effectively remove freedom of speech and what members of society can speak online, including opinions and thoughts”. (It must be noted that the education ministry has said on record that the bill does not block opinions.)

It does have a strong call at the end: “Seriously, if you don’t want a country ruined by fines for supposed war against fake news, fight for your right as a citizen and sign this petition.”

Verdict: A good attempt at creating a petition but with poor grammar, strawman arguments and a space between a word and a punctuation mark (like this !), it falls short of being a perfect meal. A hard pass for this one.

The petition is available here.
Open 24 hours.

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