MARUAH’s Statement on the Select Committee and on the Discussions on Deliberate Online Falsehoods

MARUAH’s Statement on the Select Committee and on the Discussions on Deliberate Online Falsehoods

MARUAH, a human rights organization, thanks the Select Committee for the time given to this process, and to the staff of Parliament for their effort in administering to the hearings.

We issue a statement here that deals with two main areas – Part A: The Select Committee’s Conduct; Part B –  Reflections on the Discussions on Deliberate Online Falsehoods( DOFs)

Part A: The Select Committee’s Conduct

We also like to put on record our misgivings on the proceedings of the Select Committee as carried out when MARUAH was a witness and when we were observers at the hearings. We express our dissatisfaction at the modus operandi and the approach that the Committee took on when it came to the hearings from some civil society actors, online media practitioners, technology providers, academics. There were instances of aggression and a confrontational stance that underpinned the approach taken for these witnesses. We believe in a non-confrontational approach to each other and accept challenges – even if they were terse – on the submissions made. But what we observed on March 27th and March 29th, the Committee was unrelentingly adverse to these particular witnesses.

4.    A look at the Select Committee’s terms of reference (TOR) shows that the Committee is to examine and report on Deliberate Online Falsehoods (DOFs) based on:

the phenomenon of using digital technology to deliberately spread falsehoods online falsehoods;

the motivations and reasons for the spreading of such falsehoods, and the types of individuals and entities, both local and foreign, which engage in such activity;

the consequences that the spread of online falsehoods can have on Singapore society, including to our institutions and democratic processes;

how Singapore can prevent and combat online falsehoods, including looking at the principles that should guide Singapore’s response; and any specific measures, including legislation, that should be taken.

MARUAH highlights here that the Committee – most of whom are legally trained – by its TOR mandate, is engaged at the bequest of Parliament, to work on the submissions and with witnesses, giving them an opportunity to share their ideas, defend their positions, be challenged on the substance of their submissions, and co-create possible solution, if one goes by the TOR. Both parties – the Committee and the witnesses – in carrying out this role act in good faith for the cause of dealing with DOFs.

5.  On one hand, the Committee had prepared well for the sessions, having many samples of historical information, examples of online content, academic research and studies done by various institutes. Witnesses had also come prepared to defend their submissions and when challenged, to accept reflections on their submission, share suggestions and solutions. MARUAH states that in the sessions we observed, the Committee was overly focused, through a process of intense interrogation, on showing that the witnesses were propagators of ‘falsehoods’ or sharing ‘falsehoods’ as online content providers. The methods used by the Committee were: to elicit, frequently only a “yes” or “no” response to the questions posed; inconsistent in giving space to witnesses to elaborate, qualify or make an exposition on the remarks made to them; to make a demand on the witnesses to respond immediately to the extracts of examples, that were shared during the sessions; often disallowing any misgivings or queries that witnesses wished to make or raise. Whilst MARUAH agrees that the TOR does not prescribe a modus operandi and an approach for the Committee to employ with the witnesses, nevertheless, it needs to be said that the Committee functioned, unnecessarily, in a disrespectful manner, at times, patronisingly and discriminatingly. These hearings, MARUAH ventures to say, were akin to being in a courtroom. Incidentally no witness in these hearing sessions is an accused party to any wrongdoing on ‘falsehoods’. And if the government were to feel that there was wrongdoing, this can be ascertained through a non-Parliamentary mechanism.

6.     So, MARUAH asks here if the modus operandi and the approach taken on by the Committee was within its remit as mandated by the TOR, based on the fact too that the DOFs seemed to have taken a backseat in the hearings, especially the one held on March 29th, 2018.

  1. We emphasise – CSOs, online media journalists, academia, students, and concerned individuals – are all trying to do what is good for Singapore. We need to build up a higher level of trust and even if we disagree, we (us included) ought to handle and manage the discourse well. At the end of the day we want that engagement, that submission of thoughts, expertise as we build up a society, together. We will continue our work and rise to the challenges, ahead. We need to build up that trust for each other and accept that no one institution has all the answers to make our society a better place and to be positive actor in the world.

8.     MARUAH congratulations the Committee for having received 170 written submissions and that it had called 65 witnesses to give oral testimony. This is a record high for public participation in a Parliamentary Select Committee and is an encouraging sign of rising citizen engagement in national affairs by Singaporeans. Witnesses at the hearings have proposed various responses on DOFs and the Committee will make its own recommendations when it issues its final report. We also hope that interested organisations and individuals will not be affected by the approach taken thus far by the Committee, and remain true to the cause that they believe in, as those affected are continuing too, with their contributions.

Part B: Reflections on Discussions in relation to DOFs

9.    The sessions, the summaries and mainstream and online media reports all point to the challenge of deciphering what is the  ‘truth’ and what is ‘false’ by both visible and invisible content providers. However, MARUAH says that we must also remember the positive and pivotal role online media plays in widening our intellectual, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social capacities, beyond the traditional education routes of mainstream media and information sources from leaders, such as politicians, religious bodies, communities and civil society.

9.     We agree with many of the views expressed in the sessions. But we also state that we are no closer to defining ‘falsehoods’, the specificity in the criteria to establish the constitution on ‘deliberate’ actions and on ‘severe harm’.

10.   We reiterate our point in the submission that we do not wish to have more restrictions through more legislation as we already have enough legislation and now especially with advent of the approved Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act (POSSPA). We repeat a call to review current laws, and now include the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP).

11.   MARUAH supports the suggestion made by a witness for an Independent Council to be set up. We ask that it be a multi-stakeholder body (inclusive of academics, online and mainstream media practitioners, tertiary level students) to function, establish and ascertain definitions of ‘falsehoods’ , ‘deliberate’, ‘serious harm’ and that this council also works out in relevant and realistic terms: assessing ‘falsehoods’; impact of ‘falsehoods’ on people and on infrastructure; develop follow-up remedial actions that could include preventive work through ‘fact-checking’; ensure there is transparency and a willingness to share information; develop clearer frameworks for regulated technology networks and service providers when it comes to content that can cause ‘extreme harm’ or ‘serious harm’,

12.   We share a pertinent reflection that we need a holistic approach in assessing the motivation behind ‘falsehoods’ as it needs to be contextualised beyond just the ‘race’ and/or ‘religion’ dimensions. We call for a shift in government communications to widen the sphere and not overly focus on religious and racial ‘falsehoods’ as the trigger chords that jeopardise social cohesiveness.

13.   We state, without reservations, that the level of success for a population to deal with ‘falsehoods’ is how well they are educated in critical thinking, how well they have acquired in-built interrogation mechanisms to question, analyse and manage knowledge inflows to achieve a well-thought through information output, that is fair and accurate for the better of people and the environment. Our young are the most digitized. We say this is the best defence mechanism that we need to build up their critical thinking, in a more determined manner, as this will give rise to diverse views, thoughts and behaviour.

14.   We assert that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and it is not onerous in execution, is the best tool for a population as people ingest much information, not just at face value, but to become a critical consumer. Without an FOIA we state that we will still be rowing our canoe, in still waters or in a storm, with one arm, despite being born with two able arms.

15.   Lastly we urge that the Committee, if it were to make a recommendation for new legislative measures, which we again say we do not need to have – we ask that the Draft Legislation, be shared, as was done with the Health Care Services Act, for further public consultations on the Draft legislation can take place. We hope this can take place before amending subsidiary legislation or tabling new legislation in Parliament.

 

Thank you

MARUAH, Singapore

3rd April 2018

 

* Statement can be downloaded here.

 

 

 

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14 Responses to “MARUAH’s Statement on the Select Committee and on the Discussions on Deliberate Online Falsehoods”

  • Pap has ulterior motive:

    I found the Committee conduct disrespectful and aggressive, as if they were prosecuting in a court of law.

    The main actor the Law Minister was the main culprit.

    The committee was a failure as it was a one man show. What a shame.

    PAP had already decided on the outcome so the hearing was just for show.

    THE AIM is to fix the opposition as is the avowed aim of the Clown Prince.

    Next time, boycott such stage managed hearings. Far better to debate it online than to have one man be the judge, jury and prosecutor.

    Voters of Chong Pang, kick out disgraceful and rude Shamemugam.

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  • rukidding:

    I think this time round,….PAPPY actually “shot their own foot” !

    To make it worst,…all their wayangs were exposed !

    Thank GOD it happened.

    At least now,…I think,..their “credibility” would probably be “doubted” by some ,who in the past…was “sleeping”

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  • rukidding:

    What a “sham”,….and who else can better describe it ???

    Ya lor,,the man himself,…Mr Sham !

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  • snakemugam forked tongue:

    Pap has ulterior motive:
    I found the Committee conduct disrespectful and aggressive, as if they were prosecuting in a court of law.

    The main actor the Law Minister was the main culprit.

    The committee was a failure as it was a one man show. What a shame.

    PAP had already decided on the outcome so the hearing was just for show.

    THE AIM is to fix the opposition as is the avowed aim of the Clown Prince.

    Next time, boycott such stage managed hearings. Far better to debate it online than to have one man be the judge, jury and prosecutor.

    Voters of Chong Pang, kick out disgraceful and rude Shamemugam.

    very well said, bro. agree.

    GE2019 is coming soon. pap is rushing to get it legislated. no matter how much scheming pap does, this time, it ain’t going to work.

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  • Amos proved PAP hypocrisy:

    This says it all. After the long sessions, we are “no closer to defining ‘falsehoods’”. Definition of terms must be the starting point.

    That is why the Select Committee is just another PAP wayang just like LHL’s ministerial statement in Parliament clearing himself on the accusations of dishonesty and abuse of power made by his siblings.

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  • patriot of Temesak:

    History…did LKY work for the Japs as a trait*r to his country & people when men his age or younger were with the resistance…Yes or No!!!

    Did LKY negotiate(done-deal) with the Kempetei the dreaded Evil Military Police who ALLOWED him to go home and collect his CLOTHES and work for the Japs as a trait*r and collaborator…Yes or No!!!

    RESEARCH: when the Kempetei stop you especially when you are tall and strapping, you are a GONE case, the lorry and another Sook Ching headcount…should you speak Japanese when stopped and negotiate to work for them like most Dogs do during the war you are allowed to go home and collect your clothes to be presentable @ workplace Cathay Building.

    RESEARCH: when the Japs surrendered those whose families were slaughtered during the Sook Ching MASSACRE seek out the Japanese running dogs to vent their anger & revenge…it went on till the British restore order…the smart and well informed will run for their lives the coward & trait*r that they are

    History as it HAPPENED or History as it was later spun!!!

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  • Amos proved PAP hypocrisy:

    Pap has ulterior motive:
    I found the Committee conduct disrespectful and aggressive, as if they were prosecuting in a court of law.

    The main actor the Law Minister was the main culprit.

    The committee was a failure as it was a one man show. What a shame.

    PAP had already decided on the outcome so the hearing was just for show.

    THE AIM is to fix the opposition as is the avowed aim of the Clown Prince.

    Next time, boycott such stage managed hearings. Far better to debate it online than to have one man be the judge, jury and prosecutor.

    Voters of Chong Pang, kick out disgraceful and rude Shamemugam.

    The wayang proves beyond doubt that PAP is afraid of social media. It knows it is a “game changer” because MSM is not credible. That is why PAP is hell bent on stopping/controlling it using “deliberate online falsehoods” as an excuse. Actually, PAP is the number 1 source of falsehoods/fake news with its “spin” using misleading half-truths.

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  • REGIME CHANGE:

    The deliberations of the Select Committee should finally convince Singaporeans that it is time for REGIME CHANGE. Get rid of the number 1 source of falsehoods – the arrogant, greedy, self-serving, incompetent and pro-alien PAP.

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  • Backlash now:

    I’m sick and tired of PAP shenanigans.

    As long as there’s no backlash against the PAP, they will continue to be arrogant and disrespectful to the very voters who voted them into a privileged position.

    An Online backlash campaign against the despotic PAP is long overdue.

    Enough is enough.

    See, LTA and URA have quietly converted all street parking to 10 pm/whole night. Even in backlanes, they drew parking lots.

    Even public Parks no longer have free parking.

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  • Ugly Truth:

    REGIME CHANGE:
    The deliberations of the Select Committee should finally convince Singaporeans that it is time for REGIME CHANGE. Get rid of the number 1 source of falsehoods – the arrogant, greedy, self-serving, incompetent and pro-alien PAP.

    But the trouble is the majority do not think like you.

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  • Sperm Boo Gum:

    Without the use of power in his favor, blackie would have lost all debates in his life.

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  • LIONS:

    This is NOT A REAL COMMITTEE,per se.
    THIS IS A FAKE CON-mittee in truth?

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  • Ali Baba:

    The so called Select Committe for DOF is itself a cheating and is deceiving the general public, and is actually formed to give them an opportunity to humiliate all opponents. Instead, many whom had seen the videos of the ‘interrogation’ had concluded the whole wayang show was a complete failure. They themselves had been rightfully been shamed.That Minister of law, acted exactly like ‘Dracula’ with his fangs widely opened, throwing out poison.Kudos to all whom had strongly withstand that devilish onslaught.

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  • Falsehood or Facts:

    Was it fact or falsehood that the PM has appointed a committee to review the salary of the ministers? How was it the that the final review is in the hand of one “expert” without publicised resume and experience which would legally qualify him to be expert on the matter under review that is how ministers should be Paid?So was the review a falsehood or genuine? or as the public opined the proocess as wayang?But ST published a released official statement that the ministerial salary was reviewed by a comittee engaging an “expert” without revealed credentials? So is the news fake or true?Is the review fake ot true to its objective? Is the review a con, fake, irresponsible or falsehood out to take the citizenry for a ride? This is but an example of many? How would this Select Committee be evaluated from these various aspects? Isn’t ironoical to conclude is the SC a wayang staged to show effort is made but it is just like it has never be elaborated. This is what Singapore has become and ironically the modus operandi continues probably thing the LKY pronouncement of stupid citizenry would swollow any shits spewed by the neo decracratic regime.

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