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Singapore “Fake News” Law Goes Into Effect

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  • A new law has gone into effect in Singapore that aims to stop the spread of fake news by allowing members of the government to single-handedly decide what is and is not fake news and whether or not that content should be removed.
  • Critics have argued that the law is a blatant attempt to suppress free speech and stifle political dissent ahead of an election.
  • Big tech companies like Facebook and Google have also vocally opposed the law, and others have noted that one of the most concerning aspects is that it also applies to private messages sent on encrypted apps like WhatsApp.
  • Now, individuals can face up to 10 years in jail for sharing whatever the government deems “false information.”

“Fake News” Law

A controversial bill widely known as the “fake news” law officially went into effect in Singapore Wednesday.

The new law will aim to stop the spread of disinformation, or fake news, in the city-state. The legislation, which is officially called the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, was passed by Singapore’s Parliament back in May.

According to reports, it will now be illegal to spread any “false statements of fact” that would potentially pose a threat to “public tranquility,” and the “friendly relations of Singapore with other countries.” 

That may seem straightforward, but the law is controversial due to the fact that it gives government ministers the sole power to determine what is and is not fake news, with the threshold for determination also being quite low.

According to Channel News Asia, a minister simply needs to decide if something is a “falsehood,” which is defined as “a statement of fact that is false or misleading.” 

Then, if that minister says it is in the public interest to take action against the “falsehood,” they can order whatever content they determine to be fake news to be taken down or have a correction put up next to it.

Government ministers can also force tech companies like Facebook and Google to block accounts or websites they say are spreading false information.

While the government has said that anyone impacted by the law can file an appeal and that the appeals process will be quick and cheap, the consequences of being found guilty of posting false information are extremely high.

Under the law, companies that are found guilty of spreading fake news can face fines up to $1 million in Singapore dollars—which is about $722,000 in U.S. dollars—while individuals who are found guilty can face up to 10 years in prison.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that the law is necessary “to hold online news sources and platforms accountable if they proliferate deliberate online falsehoods.”

“If we do not protect ourselves, hostile parties will find it a simple matter to turn different groups against one another and cause disorder in our society,” he added.

Free Speech Concerns

However, critics of the law have said that it is a clear attempt to stifle free speech and dissent, with many arguing that it gives way too much power and authority to the government without providing oversight for government abuse.

To that point, opponents have pointed to Singapore’s mixed record on protecting press freedoms and political dissent.

In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 151 out of 180 countries for press freedoms, meaning Singapore was ranked in one of the worst positions for a country that considers itself a democracy.

Notably, that also placed it below countries that are well-known for censoring any kind of political opposition, like Russia and Myanmar.

As a result, the activists, experts, and rights groups who have openly criticized the law worry that it will be used as a political tool for censorship.

Speaking to CNN, the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said the bill will be used for “political purposes,” noting that it comes right before elections set to happen in the next few months.

“The Singapore government has a long history of calling everything they disagree with as false and misleading,” he added. 

“Singapore’s leaders have crafted a law that will have a chilling effect on internet freedom throughout south-east Asia, and likely start a new set of information wars as they try to impose their narrow version of ‘truth’ on the wider world,” Robertson wrote in a tweet Wednesday.

The International Commission of Jurists, a group of judges and lawyers, also echoed Robertson’s sentiment in a statement before the law passed, where they argued that the law would create “a real risk that the law will be misused to clamp down on opinions or information critical of the government.”

Even members of Parliament have spoken out against the bill, arguing it is an overextension of government power.

“To introduce such a bill is not what the government claims 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,” opposition lawmaker Low Thia Khiang said before the bill’s passage in May.

Tech Companies Opposition

Others have also argued the law will give Singapore too much power over big tech firms that have a large presence in Singapore. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and Google all have their Asian headquarters in the city-state.

“This law would give Singapore overwhelming leverage over the likes of Facebook and Twitter to remove whatever the government determines is ‘misleading,’” Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia Nicholas Bequelin said in a statement. 

“This is an alarming scenario. While tech firms must take all steps to make digital spaces safe for everyone, this does not provide governments an excuse to interfere with freedom of expressionor rule over the news feed,” he added.

Google and Facebook both opposed the law when it was being debated in Parliament. After it was passed, Google said that the law will “hurt innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem.”

Others have also noted that one of the most concerning parts so the law is that it does not just apply to posts made publicly on Facebook or Twitter but that it can be applied to closed private messaging apps and chat groups like WhatsApp, which is extremely popular in Singapore.

That, in turn, means the government can not only read its citizen’s private messages but also potentially jail them for up to 10 years for content sent privately, maybe even to just one other person.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (VICE) (The Guardian)

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Netflix Reports First Subscriber Loss in Over a Decade, Suggests Looming Crackdown on Password Sharing

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The company claims nearly 100 million people access the service via another household’s account.


Netflix Loses 200,000 Subscribers

Netflix stock took a 37% dive on Wednesday morning after the streaming giant reported its first subscriber loss in over a decade. 

In the first quarter of 2022, the company lost 200,000 subscribers. The fall was especially steep considering Netflix anticipated gaining over two million customers in the time period. Now, it expects to lose another two million in its second quarter. 

In a Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix said four main factors may have contributed to this downward trend. 

“COVID clouded the picture by significantly increasing our growth in 2020, leading us to believe that most of our slowing growth in 2021 was due to the COVID pull forward,” the letter said. “Now, we believe there are four main inter-related factors at work.”

The first of the factors the company pointed to was the fact that Netflix relies on outside sources for its access to broadband homes, meaning it is dependent on the uptake of connected televisions and on-demand entertainment to access new consumers. 

It also noted that the recent rise of new streaming services has given Netflix sturdy competition. That, along with other “macro factors” like inflation, continuing COVID-19 issues, and geopolitical events, have also slowed its growth. Recently, Netflix made the choice to withdraw from Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine. 

Potential Crackdown on Password Sharing

Perhaps the most significant factor Netflix cited, however, was the prominence of password sharing on the platform. In addition to the 222 million paying households Netflix touts, it claims accounts are being shared with another 100 million people, making it “harder to grow membership in many markets.”

The company suggested its new focus will be monetizing those 100 million people. 

“This is a big opportunity as these households are already watching Netflix and enjoying our service,” Netflix wrote in its letter. “Sharing likely helped fuel our growth by getting more people using and enjoying Netflix.”

The company claimed that while it has tried to make it easy to share accounts within family units, the flexibility of those features “created confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared with other households.”

Last month, Netflix announced it was testing tools aimed at curbing password sharing in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. Details on a global rollout for these features remain unclear, but the company seems set on addressing the matter. 

“Those are over 100 million households already are choosing to view Netflix,” CEO Reeding Hastings said in a video accompanying the shareholder letter. “We’ve just got to get paid at some degree for them.”

The company is also weighing ad-supported tiers as an option to entice subscribers. While Netflix had previously voiced opposition to such a concept, Hastings said he would be “quite open to offering even lower prices with advertising, as a consumer choice.”

No plans for this tier are set in stone and it could take a couple years before anything is official. Other streaming services like Hulu and Peacock have found success by significantly lowering price points with ads. Disney+, which is arguably Netflix’s biggest competitor when it comes to subscriptions, will also be adding an ad-supported tier in the near future. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Deadline)

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Jake Gyllenhaal Responds to Extended “All Too Well,” Says Artists Should Address “Unruly” Fans

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Many targeted the actor online because they believe he is the primary subject of Taylor Swift’s famous breakup record.


Gyllenhall Addresses “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal said he does not “begrudge” Taylor Swift for her album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” but argued that artists should have a responsibility to curb “unruly” fans.

Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” in November as part of her ongoing effort to re-record her early work to gain full ownership over it. The album was first released in 2012 and is largely believed to be about her relationship with Gyllenhaal, though the Grammy-winner does not comment on the subjects of her music. For its re-release, Swift included a ten-minute version of the fan-favorite breakup ballad “All Too Well,” as well as a short film accompanying it. Many fans speculated that there were parallels between the new lyrics, visuals in the short film, and the former couple’s brief relationship.

In a profile published Thursday in Esquire, Gyllhenaal was asked about this version of “All Too Well,” which was released just a month prior to him sitting down for his interview with the outlet. He said the track “has nothing to do with” him.

“It’s about her relationship with her fans,” Gyllenhaal said. “It is her expression. Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don’t begrudge anyone that.” 

Gyllenhaal Faces Online Ridicule

In the days after the re-release of “Red,” the Internet was full of jokes and memes with Gyllenhaal as the punchline. Some came from fans, but even stars like Dionne Warwick tweeted about how the “Nightcrawler” actor broke Swift’s heart, as did brands like Sour Patch Kids

The jokes turned into larger-scale harassment. Gyllenhall disabled commenting on his Instagram when the album came out, with many assuming he did so to minimize the hateful remarks being hurled at him. His comments have since been disabled again, but The Daily Beast captured screenshots of comments Swift’s fans left on his posts when they were open and available to read. Some spammed posts he made about 9/11 and Black Lives Matter. 

While he never mentioned Swift by name while speaking to Esquire — nor did discuss any details of the online ridicule he was subjected to — he did suggest that artists should discourage fans from this kind of behavior. 

“At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name,” Gyllenhaal said. “That begs for a deeper philosophical question. Not about any individual, per se, but a conversation that allows us to examine how we can—or should, even—take responsibility for what we put into the world, our contributions into the world.” 

“My question is: Is this our future? Is anger and divisiveness our future?” he continued. “Or can we be empowered and empower others while simultaneously putting empathy and civility into the dominant conversation?”

Gyllenhaal said that while he has not listened to “Red (Taylor’s Version)” himself yet, he understands the frenzy.

“I’m not unaware that there’s interest in my life,” he added. “My life is wonderful. I have a relationship that is truly wonderful, and I have a family I love so much. And this whole period of time has made me realize that.”

See what others are saying: (Jezebel) (Entertainment Weekly) (GQ)

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I Owe You An Apology, Tom Holland Spider-Man Controversy, Florida Man Strikes Again, & Today’s News

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