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Facebook’s Southeast Asia boss doesn't want regulation to fight fake news

“We do not believe that legislation is the best approach to addressing the issue.

by David Gilbert
Mar 22 2018, 11:44am

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Alvin Tan didn’t get the memo. Hours after Mark Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday Facebook needs more regulation, the company’s head of public policy in Southeast Asia told lawmakers in Singapore that legislation is not a good way to counter fake news.

Mixed messages across the Pacific are yet another facet of Facebook’s struggle to address the current crisis that has wiped tens of billions of dollars off the company’s value in recent days.

Tan was speaking in front of a parliamentary committee Thursday that is considering how to combat the spread of fake news.

The Singaporean government claims the phenomenon threatens national security, but critics say further regulation would curb free speech. Singapore is currently ranked 151 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, a survey that tracks freedom of information compiled by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders group.

“We do not believe that legislation is the best approach to addressing the issue. Singapore already has a variety of existing laws and regulations which address hate speech, defamation and the spreading of false news,” Tan said.

In the U.S. Tan’s boss was doing a round of interviews apologizing for willingly handing over data on its users to companies such as Cambridge Analytica. When asked whether more legislation would help, Zuckerberg told CNN:

“Actually, I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I actually think the question is more ‘what is the right regulation?’ rather than ‘yes or no, should it be regulated?’”

Zuckerberg went further, saying he would welcome more transparency around advertising, particularly political advertising, the type that is at the center of the current controversy. “If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising on TV, in print, you know, it's just not clear why there should be less on the internet.”

In Singapore, the government claimed in January that many of the examples of fake news seen on platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter came from abroad.

Cover image: This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018 shows apps for Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and other social networks on a smartphone in Chennai. (ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images)