Singapore is set to introduce a new anti-fake news law, allowing authorities to remove articles deemed to breach government regulations.
The law, being read in parliament this week will further stifle dissent in an already tightly-controlled media environment. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that the law would tackle the country's growing problem of online
misinformation. It follows an examination of fake news in Singapore by a parliamentary committee last year, which concluded that the city-state was a target of hostile information campaigns.
Lee said the law will require media outlets to correct fake news articles, and show corrections or display warnings about online falsehoods so that readers or viewers can see all sides and make up their own minds about the matter. In extreme and
urgent cases, the legislation will also require online news sources to take down fake news before irreparable damage is done.
Facebook, Twitter and Google have Asia headquarters in Singapore, with the companies expected to be under increased pressure to aid the law's implementation.
A publication reportedly written by the terrorist behind the fatal attacks in Christchurch, has been officially classified as objectionable. Chief Censor David Shanks said:
Others have referred to this publication as a 'manifesto', but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law.
The document, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPCA), is deemed objectionable for a number of reasons.
It promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people, says Mr Shanks.
It identifies specific places for potential attack in New Zealand, and refers to the means by which other types of attack may be carried out. It contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, such as the deliberate killing of children.
We have dealt with terrorist promotional material before which was deliberately designed to inspire, encourage and instruct other like-minded individuals to carry out further attacks. For example we have found a number of ISIS publications to be
objectionable in previous decisions. This publication falls in the same category.
An objectionable classification for this publication is considered to be a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act in this case. Shanks said:
There is an important distinction to be made between 'hate speech', which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and
It crosses the line.
It is recognised that the publication has been widely reported on over the past week, with many media outlets publishing commentary on it, and sometimes providing links to it or downloadable copies. Many New Zealanders may have read it, possibly
seeking answers for why this dreadful atrocity took place.
Most people reading the publication will not be harmed by it. Most New Zealanders who have read this will simply find it repellent. But most New Zealanders are not the target audience. It is aimed at a small group who may be receptive to its
hateful, racist and violent ideology, and who may be inspired to follow the example set by its apparent author.
It is an offence to possess or distribute an objectionable publication. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies.
Those engaged in further reporting on the Christchurch attack may be tempted to consider the use of quotes from the publication that have already been used in other media reports.
That use of excerpts in media reports may not in itself amount to a breach of the FVPCA, but ethical considerations will certainly apply, said Shanks.
Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearly what the author was banking on, in order to spread their message.
We also appreciate that there will be a range of people, including reporters, researchers and academics, who will be in possession of the publication for a range of legitimate purposes, including education, analysis and in-depth reporting. Those
individuals can apply for exemptions, so they can legitimately access and hold a copy.
New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror. If you have a copy of this publication, delete or destroy it. If you see it, report it. Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by
republishing or distributing it.
Offsite Comment: Why New Zealand shouldn't ban the shooter's manifesto
New Zealand's largest ISPs are continuing to block websites which hosted videos of the Christchurch terror attack, after a last-minute request by the Government.
In the wake of the mosque shootings, a number of New Zealand's biggest ISPs took what they themselves acknowledged was an unprecedented step - blocking websites which were hosting a live streamed video of the recent mosque attack.In an open
letter explaining the move and calling for action from larger tech companies, the chief executives of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees said the decision was the right one in such extreme and tragic circumstances.
On Tuesday evening, both Spark and Vodafone told Newsroom they would start to remove the remaining website blocks overnight. A Spark spokeswoman said:
We believe we have now reached the point where we need to cease our extreme temporary measures to block these websites and revert to usual operating procedures.
However, less than two hours after its initial response, Spark said the websites would continue to be blocked for several more days following specific requests from Government.
New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks has officially classified the full 17 minute video of the fatal Christchurch shootings which occurred on Friday 15 March, as objectionable. He said:
The footage, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993, is deemed objectionable because of its depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism.
I took the step of 'calling in' this video over the weekend as a mechanism to fast-track the classification process.
The video contains exceedingly graphic real life images, which could cause significant harm to those who view it, especially for victims and their families.
An urgent process is currently underway to finalise a detailed report of the Chief Censor's decision, this will be released within days.
It is illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute this material in any form, including via social media platforms.
We're aware that for a time after the attacks, this video was widely available on social media and many New Zealanders saw it, sometimes without meaning to. It's important people are now clear they should not view, download or share the video.
Our priority is to mitigate the harm caused by this material to the New Zealand public, and in particular to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch terror attacks.
Associated with the video, it should be noted that a lengthy manifesto document is being examined separately from the video footage and will take more time to consider.
Update: The authorities get nasty about sharing the video
One 44 year old man with alleged far right connections has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held
Another man, an 18-year-old, is also facing charges for sharing the video.
And these two may not be the only ones in New Zealand facing charges for sharing the video. Authorities have asked Facebook for the names of others who have shared it.
Other Kiwis have reportedly lost their jobs for sharing the video with coworkers or viewing it at work, according to the New Zealand Herald .
Offsite Comment: Don't Censor the New Zealand Shooting Videos