Singapore’s Main Opposition Opposes Foreign Interference Law
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s largest opposition party said it opposes a proposed law that would empower the government to investigate and stop foreign parties from influencing local politics.
The Workers’ Party wants the country’s high court to hear appeals against decisions made under the planned legislation, rather than an independent tribunal, it said in a statement on Wednesday. It also wants revisions to a clause that defines activites “directed towards a political end in Singapore” which would be covered under the law.
“While the WP believes in countering legitimate acts of foreign interference, we disagree with the current form of the Bill in achieving the said objective,” the party said.
Earlier this month, Singapore introduced The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill, which will give officials the power to order social media platforms like Facebook Inc. and Internet service providers to disclose harmful information it suspects may be carried out by foreign actors or entities. The bill will be debated at the next parliamentary sitting, expected to be on Oct 4.
The Workers’ Party “appears not to be objecting to the principles and various aspects” of the proposed law, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement late Wednesday. “In fact, they have confirmed they believe in the legitimate need to counter malign acts of foreign interference”. The ministry said The Workers’ Party’s proposed amendments will be discussed in parliament next week, when the bill is debated.
This proposed law comes two years after the passing of Singapore’s anti-fake news laws, which have allowed the government to direct the providers to block online content not in the public interest. Social media companies have expressed concern over this law, saying government actions taken since its passage in 2019 contradict the claim it would not be used as a censorship tool.
Singapore ministers have long defended the need for these laws and for the latest bill, saying the country is especially vulnerable to fake news and hostile information campaigns given that it is plugged into global trade as a financial hub, has a multi-ethnic population and enjoys widespread Internet access.
In a briefing with Singapore-based reporters, Facebook executives said that while the company has detected covert influence operations globally on its platform, it has detected no such cases in Singapore, local online news outlet TODAYonline reported this week.
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