Singapore minister rallies ASEAN behind fight vs fake news

Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2018 12:09 PM

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Tuesday asserted the need for Southeast Asian states to address the proliferation of fake news, citing its damaging- even at times deadly- consequences.

Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development, expressed hope that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would recognize the need to act on fake news and follow through on a framework the bloc crafted in May.

"I hope to see that in ASEAN, firstly as a regional grouping, that we all collectively recognize the severity of the challenge, and we have actually proactively had meetings and discussions," Lee told reporters.

The official hopes to see individual countries come up with measures to implement the framework that the ASEAN agreed on in May, which aims to serve as a common reference for all members on how to combat fake news.

He said member-states can, at a national level, "put measures that are appropriate to [their respective] social norms."

"I hope to see the framework become a platform to share initiatives that each of us has implemented for us to learn from each other," Lee said.

He cited the case of lynchings in India fueled by fake news on supposed kidnappers - false information that spread on Facebook and messaging app WhatsApp that led to the death of at least 20 people.

Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family development, briefs journalists on Singapore’s efforts to engage the ASEAN on a host of social issues, including youth development and the fight against fake news, Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Singapore. Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Lee also cited how fake news could turn those with constructive opinion away from engaging in the social media sphere.

"Fake news and the nastiness of the internet can inhibit use of social media as a platform for honest, objective and tough discussions that are centered around the truth," he said.

"We also hope that with this framework in each of our countries, [we help] ensure that fake news doesn’t divide us," he said.

He cited the import for ASEAN to face the fake news menace as a bloc, saying this could help the region "get the international architecture of social media companies and international organizations to recognize the national security and social risks it [fake news] poses."

The ASEAN Framework and Joint Declaration to Minimize the Harmful Effect of Fake News was adopted here on May 10 at the 14th Conference of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information.

Its objectives are as follows:

a. Provide a common frame of reference for AMS (ASEAN member-states) to strengthen cooperation, share ideas, collectively address the proliferation of fake news and its negative impact, and propose lasting solutions to the benefit of the ASEAN Community;

b. Build on the discussions and concerns arising from the AMRI (Asean Ministers Responsible for Information) Roundtable Discussion on Fake News and Communicating the Right Information. To this end, Singapore also intends to organize a workshop so that AMS can share best practices and experiences concerning fake news countermeasures;

c. Promote awareness of the problems caused by fake news to the peoples of ASEAN and fostering a commitment to prevent the dangers of fake news; and

d. Encourage AMS to stand united against fake news while individual AMS adopt measures according to its specific national circumstances, laws and regulations.