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askST@NLB: 200 turn up for talk on fake news law

askST@NLB: 200 turn up for talk on fake news law.

SINGAPORE - About 200 people attended a talk at the Central Library on Friday evening (Sept 27) to learn more about Singapore's fake news law and how it will affect them. The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) was passed in Parliament in May this year and has not come into effect. The 1 1/2-hour talk is part of the askST@NLB event, a series of free talks.

The Straits Times' senior political correspondent Tham Yuen-C started the session by posing several hypothetical scenarios to the audience and asking them if they thought the scenarios would run afoul of the new law. The audience was able to distinguish correctly for most of the scenarios.

She also shared tips on how to check if information in an article is fake. "You should read the whole article, check the date and look out for tell-tale signs, sometimes there are fake photos attached," she said. Members of the public can also write in to askst@sph.com.sg about any reports, videos or photos they find dubious and ST reporters will look into these claims.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan also gave his take on the topic. "Fake news is not new... But the difference today is because technology has enabled fake news to spread very, very quickly." He said the issue should not be about whether Singapore should have a fake news law, but how the country should regulate fake news, due to the harm that it can cause to society.

"What I like about the law.. (is that it) emphasises the importance of responsible speech," said Mr Tan, comparing to Western countries where "the emphasis is on free speech".

"What is important as well is that the law also allows for opinion... You are free to establish your opinion so long as you establish why you come to that view," he added.

Tour guide Lily Lee, 62, said that it is important to know how to define what is fake news and what is not as false information can be very easily spread. "Sometimes we receive a WhatsApp message saying something, but later we find out that it is fake news," she added.

Ms Wee Jia Zhen, 22, a Nanyang Technological University student at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, attended the talk with three course mates. They are doing their final-year project on fake news and the talk reaffirmed their research on the subject. "We foresee fake news becoming a problem in the future as technology advances, such as with deepfake videos," she said, adding that they were hoping to get youths to be more proactive in calling out and reporting fake news.

askST@NLB is a monthly collaboration between The Straits Times and the National Library Board. The sessions are streamed live on The Straits Times' Facebook page.

Adapted From The Straits Times, Oct 12 2019