Hundreds of academics from all over the world have written to the Singapore Government expressing their concerns about the newly proposed anti-fake news laws. The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill was tabled in the parliament on April 1. However, the government has assured the academic fraternity that the law is to curb only the false news but not restrict opinion and academic works.
The group of scholars who have written the letter include University of Michigan Business professor Linda Lim, Baptist University Journalism professor Cherian George, National University of Singapore Political Scientist Chong Ja Ian and Nanyang Technological University Sociologist Teo You Yenn.
The intellectuals argue that it could threaten academic freedom in the city-state. In their letter to the government, they focused on how the proposed powers to police falsehoods could backfire on researchers. "The legislation may also set negative precedents, with knock-on effects on the global academy." The scholars noted that much of the academic work focuses on disputing apparently established 'facts', which are confirmed or denied through research and continuously reappraised as new data becomes available. They explained it is not possible to state definitively what is a 'fact' proven for all time, and what is a conjecture or hypothesis that may turn out to be 'false or misleading'.
However, in response to their letter, the Singapore Education Ministry reiterated the government's position that the bill covers 'verifiably false statements of fact which affect public interest' and does not restrict opinion. The ministry said the law would not affect academic work.