After three years of non-stop demands for Silicon Valley to censor “fake news” and “misinformation,” mainstream journos now worry that foreign governments are using the same labels to demand censorship of their critics — and that Facebook is listening.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that the government of Singapore has begun to make use of its law against “fake news,” which Breitbart News first reported on in April.
The law, titled the “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act,” was recently invoked to remove a Facebook post from a publisher that was critical of the ruling government. The post included allegations about the arrest of an alleged whistleblower.
Facebook, which has its Asia headquarters in Singapore, added a corrective label to the post, stating that “Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information.”
In a statement to the media, a Facebook representative said the company hopes “Singapore government’s assurances that it will not impact free expression will lead to a measured and transparent approach to implementation.”
However, the tone of reporting around the story suggests that western onlookers are worried about these developments. The BBC’s writeup of the story notes criticism of Singapore’s law from Amnesty International, which says it would “give authorities unchecked powers to clamp down on online views of which it disapproves.”
An aggregated headline on Yahoo! News, meanwhile, reads: “Singapore tells Facebook to change post after dissident editor refuses to comply.” (Note: Yahoo! News has never carried headlines that label any of the conservative publishers that have been banned from Facebook as “dissident editors.”)
The Guardian, like the BBC, reminds us that “rights groups have raised concerns the fake news law will be used to stifle free speech and dissent in the city state, where the ruling party has comfortably won every election since independence in 1965.”
It seems that some in the media have accepted the possibility that “fake news” can be used as a convenient excuse for political censorship.
Are you an insider at Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.