In test of 'fake news' laws, Singapore tells Facebook to correct user's post

SINGAPORE — Singapore instructed Facebook on Friday to publish a correction notice on a user's social media post under a new "fake news" law, raising fresh questions about how the firm will adhere to government requests to regulate content.

The government said in a statement that it had issued an order requiring Facebook "to publish a correction notice" on a Nov. 23 post which contained accusations about the arrest of a supposed whistleblower and election rigging.

Singapore said the allegations were "false" and "scurrilous" and initially ordered user Alex Tan, who runs the States Times Review blog, to issue the correction notice on the post. Tan, who does not live in Singapore and says he is an Australian citizen, refused and authorities said he is now under investigation.

Facebook declined to comment and Tan's post was unaltered as of mid-afternoon on Friday.

Facebook has been under fire in recent years for its lax approach to fake news reports, state-backed disinformation campaigns and violent content spread on its services, prompting calls for new regulations around the world.

It is also frequently criticized for being too willing to do the bidding of governments in stamping out political dissent.

Facebook often blocks content that governments allege violate local laws, with nearly 18,000 cases globally in the year to June, according to the company's "transparency report."

Related: Facebook over the years

33 PHOTOS
Facebook over the years
See Gallery
Facebook over the years

The original Facebook homepage from 2004 with a small picture of Al Pacino in the top left corner.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg originally described himself as not only the founder of Facebook, but also as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State."

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Here's what a Facebook group page looked like in 2005.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

For comparison, this is what a Facebook group page looks like today.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook homepage in 2005 also listed all of the schools the social network was in -- and still included the photo of Al Pacino.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The company decided to drop the "the" from its name in 2005, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

We love this gem about "poking" from one of the original FAQ pages.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's homepage in 2006 was a stripped-back affair, doing away with the list of schools in favor of a simple login option.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg's profile in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends' activity in a single timeline in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

At the same time, Facebook introduced the Mini-Feed. But the entire concept of a News Feed resulted in some very public outrage. Some users even went so far to call one of Facebook's product managers the devil.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's 2007 homepage contained the first instance of its now-synonymous logo and offered the "latest news" from friends.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The Facebook of 2008 continued to refine the homepage and offered options for signing up.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook gained the "connected world" diagram in 2009, which lasted all the way until 2011.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

In 2009, Facebook's home page also got a facelift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real-time.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

That same year, Facebook also introduced its algorithm for determining the order in which status updates should be displayed.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook changed its logo font in 2010 but left the homepage much the same.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

2010 was also when Facebook brought notifications to the top navigation bar following yet another redesign.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also rolled out a new, more visual profile in 2010. It added a row of recently tagged images below your name and basic profile information.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook left the design the same in 2011, but made the input boxes used to log in clearer.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Ticker in 2011 so users could keep up with their friends while browsing through other parts of Facebook.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook Timeline feels like it's been around since the beginning. But it launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also split its instant messaging into a different app called Messenger in 2011. It's now got more than 800 million monthly users.

Photo courtesy: iTunes

Facebook swapped out the connected world diagram for a phone in 2012 as its users moved from desktop to mobile. Today, over 800 million people access Facebook on mobile everyday.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook started flooding the News Feed with sponsored stories in January 2012.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook settled on a design in 2013 that it would stay with for the next few years.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

This is what Facebook's mobile app looked like when it first launched.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

It has since been completely redesigned.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. With more than 400 million monthly users, that seems like a steal nowadays.

Photo courtesy: Business Insider

2015 was a big year for Facebook that saw its first ever day with one billion users online simultaneously. The company had figured out how to make money from mobile too, turning it into a $300 billion business.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Today, more than 1.5 billion people use the social network every single month.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

And more than 1.4 billion people use it on their mobile phones every month. Not bad, considering 12 years ago smartphones didn't even exist.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

Here's the Facebook homepage today, on its 12th birthday.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

But the new Singapore law is the first to demand that it publish corrections when directed to do so by the government, and it remains unclear how it plans to respond to the order.

The case is the first big test for a law that was two years in the making and came into effect last month.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an association of internet and technology companies in the region, called the law the "most far reaching legislation of its kind to date," while rights groups have said it could undermine internet freedoms, not just in Singapore, but elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Facebook has previously said it was "concerned with aspects of the new law which grant broad powers to the Singapore executive branch to compel us to remove content they deem to be false and to push a government notification to users."

In the only other case under the law, which covers statements that are communicated in the country even if they originate elsewhere, opposition political figure Brad Bowyer swiftly complied with a correction request.

The penalties range from prison terms of as much as 10 years or fines up to S$1 million ($735,000).

Singapore, ruled by the People's Action Party since independence in 1965, is widely expected to hold a general election within months, though no official date has been set.

Read Full Story