A look at fake news laws around the world

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
View of the Parliament House in Singapore. (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Parliament on Wednesday (8 May) passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, which will give the government the power to take individuals and online news sources and platforms to task if they disseminate “deliberate online falsehoods”.

Perpetrators face fines of between $30,000 and up to $1 million, and/or up to 10 years’ jail.

Amid criticism from observers on the ministers’ wide-ranging powers under the new fake news law, here's a look at similar legislation elsewhere:

Malaysia

The previous governing coalition Barisan Nasional introduced an Anti-Fake News Act in April last year. The maximum penalty under the law is up to six years' jail along with a fine of up to RM500,000 ($164,000).

The ruling Pakatan Harapan government tried to repeal the law just five months later, but the move was blocked by the opposition-led Senate.

Germany

The Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks (Net Enforcement Act) was passed by the Bundestag in June 2017, giving the authorities the power to fine social media giants up to €50 million ($76.9 million) if they fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours upon receiving a complaint.

For offensive online material that requires further assessment, action to block it must be taken by the companies within seven days, failing which a fine will be imposed.

France

Two laws were passed in October last year to rein in false information during election campaigns. The laws allow a candidate or political party to seek a court injunction preventing the publication of "false information" during the three months leading up to a national election.

They also give France's broadcast authority the power to take any network that is "controlled by, or under the influence of a foreign power" off the air if it "deliberately spreads false information that could alter the integrity of the election".

Russia

President Vladimir Putin in March signed into law a set of Bills passed by lawmakers that impose tough new fines for those who spread "fake news" or show "blatant disrespect" for the state online.

Online news outlets and users that spread “fake news” will face fines of up to 1.5 million rubles for repeat offences. Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($6,280) and 15 days' jail for repeat offences. The authorities may also block websites that do not meet requests to remove inaccurate information.

Australia

Lawmakers in early April passed new legislation which would fine social media and web hosting companies up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover and imprison executives for up to three years if "abhorrent violent material" is not removed "expeditiously".

Parliament rushed the legislation in the wake of the 15 March attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand where an Australian white supremacist shot worshippers in the two mosques while broadcasting the crimes live on Facebook using a helmet-mounted camera.

Related stories:

Singapore's fake news law passed amid partisan divide

Fake news law: Academic research should not be conflated with activism, says Ong Ye Kung

IMDA to set up POFMA office to administer fake news law: S Iswaran

Government must have powers to deal with falsehoods initially and swiftly, not courts: Shanmugam

Fake news law is ploy by government to hold on to ‘absolute power’: Workers' Party MP Low Thia Khiang

No need for independent body to assess falsehoods, Parliament is accountable: Shanmugam

Parliament: Appeal against minister's decision under fake news law could be heard in court in 6 days

83% of Singaporeans prefer independent body to assess online falsehoods: survey

COMMENT: 'Fake news Bill' gets a re-run

Three NMPs express concerns over fake news bill, propose amendments

COMMENT: Singapore’s online falsehoods bill will deepen culture of self-censorship

Virtually anything can be deemed ‘misleading’ under fake news law: historian Thum Ping Tjin

Parliament: Draft bill proposes up to 10 years' jail for individuals who deliberately spread fake news

Singapore government should pass laws against fake news: Select Committee