Singapore: 'Fake News' law grants temporary exemptions so tech companies can implement compliance measures

Author: Prinyaka Boghani, S&P Global, Published on: 6 October 2019

"Google, Facebook given breathing room as Singapore enacts 'fake news' law," 03 October 2019

Late-stage additions to Singapore's "fake news" law buy Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. unit Google LLC and Twitter Inc. much needed time to adapt to the new rules, legal experts said.

The city-state's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, or POFMA, came into effect Oct. 2, despite opposition from the social media companies and rights organizations. The law...aims to hold online platforms to account for the spread of misinformation...

Since then, Section 61 has been added, which grants "temporary exemptions" to internet subsidiaries. A ministerial note named Google, Twitter, Facebook, Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s Wechat International Pte. Ltd. as the intended recipients and said the clause was introduced so they would have enough "time to put in place the necessary arrangements and technological measures to enable them to comply with certain requirements of the act."

The temporary exemptions excuse the five internet companies and subsidiaries Instagram LLC and YouTube LLC, from certain protocols such as sending notices to individual end users who have seen the fake news and informing them that the content is false; disabling access by end users to the false content; publishing a notice on the platform informing all end users that the content is false and disallowing a particular user from using the platform's services. There is no indication of how long the exemptions will remain in effect.

The essence of the law, which confers greater powers on the executive, remains the same. Under the law, websites and print publications are required to add warnings or "corrections" alongside statements the government deems false. The bill also states that a government-appointed authority will be given powers to force companies to remove comments that are "against the public interest."

In response to the enforcement of the bill, a spokesperson from Tencent told S&P Global Market Intelligence that WeChat is "committed to building an efficient, secure platform for users to stay connected and share information and ideas." Facebook, Twitter, Google and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment on the bill.

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Related companies: Alphabet Baidu Google (part of Alphabet) Instagram (part of Facebook) Tencent Twitter YouTube (part of Alphabet)