You are here: Home » News-ANI » International » World
Business Standard

Coronavirus misinformation in social media age underscores need for Singapore-like fake news laws

ANI  |  Asia 

The spread of fake news through social media platforms amid the outbreak of coronavirus has reinforced the convictions surrounding the significance of laws aimed at taking swift action against the cyber misinformants.

In Singapore, the debate surrounding The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) -- which came into effect in October last year -- was rekindled following the spread of distorted claims and misinformation on coronavirus at a time when the country has reported more than 110 cases.

Fake news has been an ongoing phenomenon in the city-state for more than a decade now. The law was thus necessary to tackle growing concerns over the scourge of misinformation.

POFMA seeks to prevent the electronic communication of falsehoods as well as to safeguard against the use of online platforms for the communication of such falsehoods.

Under POFMA, publishing false statements with "malicious intent" attracts fines of up to USD 731,000 and jail sentences of up to 10 years. It is for such stringent punishment that the law has faced criticism from civil activists, NGOs and opposition figures since its implementation on October 2, 2019.

"Amid the spread of coronavirus, there is an increasing propensity among people to create more panic. Fake records and fake news is being generated. Consequently, the countries are realising that unless they do not take strong penal action against the perpetrators of this fake news, such factitious pieces of news are going to spread like wildfire," said Pavan Duggal, an Indian advocate who specialises in Cyber laws.

The problems of disinformation in a society like India has proved to be far more challenging than the west.

"When it comes to India, we find that the country does not have a dedicated law for fake news at all. You could try to book them (the misinformation) under some provisions under the Indian Penal Code, but they are not very effective," Duggal said.

"It is time that India wakes up from its slumber and come out with a new law on fake news," he added.

The bone of contention around such laws, however, remains that they can be misused for arbitrary detentions, ostracising political opponents, or suppressing dissent.

"Any fake news law must pass the parameters of the principles enshrined under the Constitution of the country. In case any fake news law is in violation of such parameters, it can always be challenged in the court. In India, we have a bigger problem facing us, which is that we do not have the law in the first place," he added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Thu, March 05 2020. 18:59 IST