Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (7 May), MP for Aljunied GRC Low Thia Khiang said that the latest Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill was to “protect the ruling party and achieve political monopoly”.
“To introduce such a bill is not to defend democracy and public interest, it is more like the actions of a dictatorial government that will resort to any means to hold on to absolute power”, he added.
Such a law would curb freedom of expression and compel people to protect themselves by engaging in self-censorship: “The government can selectively punish a few offenders to achieve a chilling effect, to scare the monkey by slaughtering the chicken.”
Saying that there is a thin line between what is true and what is not, Low expressed concern that the wide powers ministers wield in deciding what constitutes online falsehood is akin to someone who doubles as both player and referee during a match.
“How can we be sure that the ministers from the ruling party will not manipulate opinions and spread falsehoods in order to win elections?” Low argued.
To support this, he gave two examples to illustrate his argument.
“For example, if I say the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations packages are to buy votes, is this opinion or information?”
Another example is the statement that “the older generation cannot accept a non-Chinese prime minister”.
Low said: “If this were to come from the minister himself or his supporters, the minister may say this is a personal opinion. However, if this were to come from the minister’s political opponents on social media, the minister may say that spreading such falsehoods will create racial conflicts, endangering national security.”
Earlier, current WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh said that there have been instances where decisions made by the government were questioned by members of the public. These included Operation Spectrum and the Marxist conspiracy of 1987.
MP Low suggested that the Minister should first take his complaint to the court and prove to the judge that the information which has been published online is indeed fake news or false information.