SINGAPORE: Social media giant Facebook on Tuesday (Nov 13) explained why it did not accede to Singapore authorities’ request to take down a States Times Review post linking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with 1MDB investigations.
“We have a responsibility to handle any government request to restrict alleged misinformation carefully and thoughtfully, consistent with our approach to government requests around the world. We do 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,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.
The Facebook post shared an article alleging that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering 1MDB funds.
On Nov 9, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) denounced the article as "baseless and defamatory" and filed a police report over it. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the allegations were "absurd".
On the same day, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) issued an order for States Times Review to take down the article.
When it refused, the regulator directed Internet service providers in Singapore to restrict access to the website.
IMDA also asked Facebook to take down a post sharing the article, but the social media platform did not accede to the request.
In response, Singapore's Ministry of Law said that Facebook's stance showed that the social media platform "cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign".
Speaking at a roundtable with media on Tuesday, Monika Bickert, vice president of product policy at Facebook, said: “We don’t have a policy of removing false content. We will generally try to counter the virality and surface educational content. There are those two exceptions, where it’s very tied to voter suppression or the imminent threat of physical violence in the offline world.
“Other than that, I will say that we do have a process through which governments can submit (something) to us if they think that something violates their laws and we have dialogues with governments back and forth on that. We have a legal team that analyses those requests and then we publish the results of those requests and whether we have removed content - we publish that in a report that we put out every six months.”
In September, Facebook - along with Google and Twitter - were singled out in a Select Committee report that made recommendations to the Government on how to tackle deliberate online falsehoods.
In particular, the committee called for legislation for measures to be taken in response to online falsehoods, "since Facebook, Google and Twitter have a policy of generally not acting against content on the basis that it is false".