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Explainer: How online news sites can be compelled to correct, take down fake news

New laws to tackle fake news were introduced in Parliament on Monday (April 1). When passed, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act will give the Government the power to compel online news sources and platforms to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods, and — in extreme and urgent cases — take down an errant article.

Under the proposed laws, any Minister can instruct a “competent authority” — either a statutory board, or the holder of any office in the Government or a statutory board — to issue directions to compel online news sources and platforms to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods, and — in extreme and urgent cases — take down an errant article.

Under the proposed laws, any Minister can instruct a “competent authority” — either a statutory board, or the holder of any office in the Government or a statutory board — to issue directions to compel online news sources and platforms to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods, and — in extreme and urgent cases — take down an errant article.

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — New laws to tackle fake news were introduced in Parliament on Monday (April 1).

When passed, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act will give the Government the power to compel online news sources and platforms to show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods, and — in extreme and urgent cases — take down an errant article.

TODAY breaks down how individuals, publishers, Internet platforms and mainstream media could be affected by such orders.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • Any Minister can instruct a “competent authority” — either a statutory board, or the holder of any office in the Government or a statutory board — to issue directions.

  • A direction may be issued to anyone, whether or not they are in or outside the country.

  • It remains in effect until it expires, is set aside following a successful appeal to the High Court, or is cancelled by the Minister.

  • The direction may be served on the person to whom it is issued, or on a person in Singapore whom the first person has appointed to accept it on their behalf.

  • Under an access blocking order, if anyone fails to comply with the direction, the Minister may direct the Info-communications Authority of Singapore to order the Internet access service provider to disable access to the online location.

The new laws also give the Government powers to blacklist sites that have been found to have repeatedly spread falsehoods, to cut off its ability to profit, without shutting it down.

This will be done through a “declaration of online locations”. Such a declaration can be made on an online location when:

  • In the preceding six months, it has published three different falsehoods that are the subject of active directions, meaning that each falsehood was against the public interest.

  • At least three of those statements were first communicated in Singapore on the online location within six months before the declaration was made.

  • The declaration must contain the universal resource locator (URL), domain name or any other unique identifier of the online sites. It must also reproduce all directions that have been made against the site.

  • The declaration must also state the date it comes into effect. It must also state the expiry date or a formula by which the date may be worked out, which must not be later than two years after the date comes into effect.

Once a declaration has been made on an online location, these entities must take reasonable steps, both in and outside Singapore, to ensure that any paid content on those declared online locations is not communicated in Singapore:

  • Service providers

  • Digital advertising intermediaries (Anyone who acts as the link between owners/operators of online locations, and advertisers and service providers)

  • Prescribed digital advertising or Internet intermediaries

It will also be an offence to provide financial support to promote the communication of false statements in Singapore on a declared online location.

WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS TYPES OF DIRECTIONS?

These conditions must first be satisfied before a direction is issued:

  • A false statement of fact, or material containing the false statement, has been or is being communicated in Singapore;

  • The Minister thinks it is in the public interest to issue the direction.

Correction direction

  • Issued to a person who communicates a false statement of fact in Singapore.

  • It requires them to put up a correction notice stating that the statement is false, and/or where the false statement can be found.

  • It may require them to put up the correction notice in a specified online location.

  • It may also require them to do one or both of the following:

  • Place the correction notice in specified proximity to every copy of the false statement or any substantially similar statement

  • Publish the correction notice in a specified newspaper or other printed publication of Singapore

  • Anyone can be issued a correction direction even if they do not know or have no reason to believe the statement was false.

Stop communication direction

  • It requires the person to stop communicating a false statement of fact, or any substantially similar statement, by a specified time.

  • Anyone can be issued a correction direction even if they do not know or have no reason to believe the statement was false.

  • It may also require the person to do one or both of the following:

  • Communicate a correction notice to a specified person by the specified time

  • Publish the correction notice in a specified newspaper or other printed publication of Singapore.

Targeted correction direction

  • Issued to Internet intermediaries that provide the platform for the false material to be communicated in Singapore.

  • It requires them to put up a correction notice stating that the statement is false, and/or where the false statement can be found.

Disabling direction

  • It requires Internet intermediaries to disable access to the false material by a specified time.

  • If the Internet intermediary is a prescribed one, it may also require them to do one or both of the following:

  • Disable access to the service or identical copies of the false material provided

  • Communicate a correction notice to its end-users in Singapore

General correction direction

  • If issued to a prescribed holder of a permit under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, they must publish a correction notice in a specified newspaper or printed publication by a specified time.

  • If issued to a prescribed broadcast licensee within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act, they must broadcast a correction notice in Singapore by a specified time.

  • If issued to a prescribed holder of a licence under the Telecommunications Act, they must transmit the correction notice to all its end-users at any time after the specified time.

  • The correction notices must be “easily perceived”.

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