No policy on banning alleged falsehoods: Facebook

(FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Dado Ruvic)

We do not have a policy that bans alleged falsehoods, said social media giant Facebook on Tuesday (13 November), in response to the Singapore government’s unhappiness over its refusal to take down a States Times Review (STR) post linking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with the investigations into Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

IMDA requested Facebook take down STR post

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) had on Friday asked Facebook to take down a post sharing an STR article alleging that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering 1MDB funds.

However, the request was turned down, and Singapore’s Ministry of Law issued a statement later saying that Facebook’s stance showed that the social media platform “cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign”.

In response to media queries, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We have a responsibility to handle any government request to restrict alleged misinformation carefully and thoughtfully, consistent with our approach to government requests around the world.

“We do not have a policy that prohibits alleged falsehoods, apart from in situations where this content has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm.”

MAS filed police report on STR article

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had filed a police report on 9 November over the STR article. Law and Home Affairs minister K Shanmugam also labelled the article as “absurd”.

On the same day, the IMDA issued an order for STR to take down the article. When the website refused, the regulator directed Internet service providers in Singapore to restrict access to the website.

In September, Facebook – along with Google and Twitter – were singled out in a Select Committee report that made recommendations to the Singapore government on how to tackle online falsehoods.

It called for legislation for measures to be taken in response to online falsehoods, adding that “Facebook, Google and Twitter have a policy of generally not acting against content on the basis that it is false”.

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