Facebook Stands Ground After Singapore Criticism Over 1MDB Post

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. stood its ground after Singapore called the social media giant unreliable for declining a request to remove a post, which the government had said was false and defamatory.

“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," Facebook said in an e-mailed statement. "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.”

The post in question -- by alternative news website States Times Review -- had connected Singapore and its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to probes on the embattled Malaysian state fund 1MDB. Facebook’s decision to not remove malicious information on Singapore shows the need for legislation, the Ministry of Law said in a Nov. 9 statement.

“Facebook has declined to take down a post that is clearly false, defamatory and attacks Singapore, using falsehoods," the Ministry of Law said. Facebook "cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign.”

Singapore is among a growing number of countries looking at laws regulating “fake news” and the social media. A parliamentary-select committee’s report laid out 22 recommendations that included a call for legislation to halt the viral spread of fake news “in a matter of hours.”

The measures sparked concerns among some big technology companies with the Asia Internet Coalition -- a group representing companies such as Apple Inc., Facebook and Google -- urging Singapore to consider industry self-regulation and coordination with local authorities.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.