States Times Review article shows ‘insidious nature’ of deliberate online falsehoods: Edwin Tong [Today Online]

News travels fast online - even if it is made to manipulate.


SINGAPORE — The news report alleging that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore — in exchange for the assistance of the Republic's banks in laundering funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) — demonstrated the “insidious nature” of deliberate online falsehoods, said Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong in Parliament.


Responding to a question filed by Member of Parliament (MP) for Bukit Batok Murali Pillai, Mr Tong on Tuesday (Nov 20) also said that the website State Times Review had “repackaged the same falsehoods” as an earlier article in May, which had “failed…to gain traction”.


He noted that the latest article, published on Nov 5, was shared about 1,600 times on Facebook as at Nov 8, some of which were the “concerted effort” by a small group of users to share in multiple Facebook groups.


“The shares by this small group of just seven users accounted for the falsehood potentially (being) seen by over 800,000 users who were (the group’s) members,” Mr Tong told the House.


The article in question – titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” – alleged that both countries’ water agreement and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail agreement favoured Singapore.


Mr Tong said the Nov 5 article added a “malicious twist”, in that it took these arguments and “concocted a conspiracy theory” about how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Government were corruptly allowing 1MDB funds to be laundered in exchange for these favourable terms.


The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) asked States Times Review to take down the article but it refused. IMDA then asked the Internet Service Providers to block the site and they did so.


The authority also requested Facebook to deny access to the post on States Times Review’s Facebook page, but the social media giant declined to do so.


In response to media queries previously, Facebook said it does 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”.


Calling the decision “surprising”, Mr Tong said there are “many situations where serious harm is caused even though there is no potential for imminent violence or physical harm”.


“The slow drip of poison, over a period of time, can one day burst into violence,” he added.


“This incident demonstrates why we cannot rely on the goodwill of service provider platforms to protect Singapore from disinformation campaigns."




On Nov 5, States Times Review published an article stating that the water agreement, and High Speed Rail agreements favoured Singapore, and alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Government were complicit in allowing money laundering of 1MDB funds.


On Nov 7, a repackaged article was reproduced on Malaysian website The Coverage.


It was subsequently picked up by Malaysian Chinese-language paper China Press. It was viewed 45,000 times a day later.


Two Youtube videos were also put up, translating the allegations into Mandarin.


The Singapore High Commission in Malaysia also issued a statement debunking the article on Nov 7 and called it “clearly libellous”. China Press took down the article after the clarification.


On Nov 8, the Monetary Authority of Singapore lodged a police report in relation to the States Times Review article.


IMDA issues request to States Times Review to take down article on Nov 9. The site declined to do so.


Source: Today Online             

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