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Facebook Lectures Singapore Lee Hsien Loong – Here’s Why We Refused To Take Down A Post Linking PM Lee To 1MDB Corruption

It didn’t help that PM Lee and ex-PM Najib were both durian buddies, leading to speculation, perception and accusation that Singapore government helped the crook across the Causeway in corruption and money laundering. Of course, the article posted by alternative news website States Times Review has damaged PM Lee and Singapore’s reputation. So, it’s understandable why Singapore Minister of Law, K Shanmugam, slammed Facebook on Nov 9 for declining to grant a request from the government. As far as the Singapore Government is concerned, everything under the sun that criticizes the leader or the administration is considered “false”, “fake” and “defamatory”. Frustrated with Facebook’s refusal to play along, the Singapore Ministry of Law said that Facebook cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign, hence, justified that Singapore needs new legislation to combat fake news such as the one published by Alex Tan, the editor of the States Times Review. The Singapore IMDA (Info-communications Media Development Authority) eventually flexed its muscle – blocking access to the States Times Review website. But the website can still be accessed via VPN or proxies, just to name a few alternative ways. However, the clash between the Singapore and Facebook continues. On Nov 13, Facebook decided to lecture the Singapore Government a thing or two about freedom of speech and what the Lee administration perceives as fake news. In spite of the country’s criticism against Facebook over its handling of the so-called spread of misinformation, the social media giant stood by its policies which have to be “very objective and black-and-white”. Ms Monika Bickert, vice-president of Facebook’s product policy division, said that under its existing policy, Facebook will remove inaccurate information circulating on its platform only if it leads to voter suppression or poses a threat of imminent violence. She gave her feedback while attending the first-ever forum in Asia-Pacific on Facebook’s community standards in Singapore. What this means is there are basically three main categories of content that could possibly violate Facebook standards – hate speech, adult nudity, and dangerous individuals and organisations (terrorism propaganda). Obviously the article published by States Times Review cannot be considered as a violation of adult nudity or terrorism propaganda. That would leave the article to hate speech. Even then, Facebook’s hate speech is defined as a direct attack on people based on nine protected characteristics, which include national origin, sexual orientation and caste. Therefore, Facebook could not entertain Singapore’s request to bring down the post criticizing – even accusing – PM Lee of corruption. At the media session, Ms Bickert also reiterated that Facebook does not have a wholesale policy of removing false content because it would be extremely hard to police whether a specific piece of information is true or false. Furthermore, a private company such as Facebook is in no position to determine whether the content is true or otherwise. More importantly, Facebook’s policies must be fair and impartial in order to produce consistent outcomes across different users in various parts of the world. Ms Bickert further lectured – “We don’t want policies to apply to certain people but not others. We want everybody around the globe to use Facebook and use it safely.” In a nutshell, unless articles published on Facebook criticizing or accusing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm, the social media giant’s 7,500 content reviewers would not give a damn. And the potential of voters inspired by such articles voting against Lee government does not count. Source : Finance Twitter

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