Fighting Deliberate onLine Falsehoods, with Whose Truths?

by MIKOspace

Singapore has begun public hearings by a Parliamentary Select Committee into Deliberate Online Falsehoods. After a few days of hearings, the emergent motherhood consensus is that deliberate online falsehoods can fracture and rapture social trust to the extent as to injure public safety and harm social order should they lead to pervasive and destructive civil disobedience.

I have underlined and emphasized the word “deliberate” so as to highlight its vague distinctions with “unknowing” or “unconscious” types of online falsehoods.  Admittedly, these apparent distinctions are rapidly lost in various intellectual and semantic translations.    

Misinformation, half-truths and fake news are in fact not new.  We are surrounded by all forms of fake and false information in advertisements, man-made religions, philosophies, news articles and public relations spins. Official censorship together with the ideological control of the news and publishing media are also propaganda serving specific and particular power and economic interests.    

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the new word for 2016 is “post-truth”.  It refers to the existence of “alternative” truths. Whither therefore the status of “deliberate falsehoods” in the internet era of “post-truths”?

The sobering truth is that all information is “deliberate” falsehood and partial-truths to varying degree. Indeed, many would even challenge this statement itself as “deliberate” falsehood and a half-truth!  And they would be neither wrong nor right! Even as I strenuously state it with the sincerest of conviction and belief!  To me therefore, it is a fully true statement. And it also does not matter to me if you should consider it a falsehood. 

Indeed, what difference does it matter? Herein lies the challenge in the war against “deliberate” online falsehood. If you don’t believe it, then don’t.  If you believe it, then own it and make it your very own!

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s advised that “… he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived. To Machiavelli, the people are simple-minded, naïve and gullible, and therefore can be easily manipulated all the time (by those who have the power to do so). [italic words added are mine]. Indeed, Machiavelli of course could not be more wrong or right.

With today’s Internet, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp … etc, we can expect unpredictable hysteria by the “naïve, gullible and simple-minded” at a greater speed and with dire public safety consequences.  Facebook has boasted of its active influence on the Arab Spring.  Both Facebook and Google do not however agreed to any restrictions or ban on the posting of partial truths, falsehoods and fake news. Quite understandably, no social media has the credentials to assume the role as a Truth-Watcher or Gate-Keeper on the Internet.

Every computer or mobile phone is a microphone for anyone who has something to say or write truth to the rest of the world. Indeed, no legitimate voice should be silenced, but it is arguable as to whether every voice should deserve equal air time on the proverbial social media microphone. The opportunity to be heard and thereby to influence is not a natural inherent birth right. Concepts, opinions, perceived facts and thought belong to the marketplace of ideas and innovations in the highly contested space of social reality.  Whatever and whichever prevailed are socially filtered and constructed through a process of mental and cultural construction that differentiate “falsehoods” from the applicable and practicable truths. Unfortunately, this truth-making process is often corrupted and interfered by crooked and less honourable people in positions of power.           

Action Sensors on onLine Falsehoods
It is not within the capability and capacity of the Parliamentary Select Committee into Deliberate Online Falsehoods (PSCDOF), nor does it has the wisdom, competency and moral aptitude, to recommend and define the parameters of the vast arrays of applicable and practicable truths for the diverse Singapore population.

There are three (3) Action Sensors to evaluate whether corrective actions are necessary on alleged online falsehoods. The Action Sensors are (1) Content; (2) Context; and (3) Consequences. They are inter-related to be considered together integratively.  

A mere statement or publication, however disagreeable or objectionable, does not render itself sufficient to be chastised or proscribed or punished. Since most information is incapable to be absolutely 100% true, partially true information likewise cannot be regarded to be totally false. The absolute truthfulness of statements and publications may often be irrelevant to those who find them objectionable or disagreeable.

This is obviously true with regard to any information pertaining to religious beliefs, traditions and practices held by believers or regarded by nonbelievers. Absolute truth is totally immaterial and irrelevant to believers and nonbelievers.

Within science in the disciplines of medicine, physical and biological sciences, there are also wide disagreements over theories, models and methods and which in turn provide the motivation and momentum for further research and their innovations.  Social sciences clashed repeatedly over the validity and reliability of their predictions, findings and theories.      

As long as the contents of statements or publications are within the permissible bounds of applicable defamatory, libel and slander laws, there should be no basis for any punitive actions.

The context of disagreeable or objectionable statements or publications is an important factor to understand the motivation and purpose of their author(s).    What is known regarding the degree of intellectual acuity and their respective depth of technical knowledge in the subject(s) expressed or written about?  What audience or readers are addressed by the authors? Are the purposes personal, educational, political, social, economic and/or casual conversational?  Is the context closed or opened, referring to whether the statements and publications are intended for named individuals or a defined specific group or for the unspecified public?  A careful assessment of the context is critical to adjudge and infer whether the author(s) intend to cause chaos and mischief, harm public safety, denigrate self-respect, destroy self-esteem, entertain, educate and/or informational.            
As long as there is no intention to disrupt social harmony or harm public safety, vigorous debates and conversations among well-informed and knowledgeable individuals in deeply divisive subject matters such as politics, religions, history, traditions and personal preferences, especially where one has the freedom to choose to enjoin, rebut or leave the discussions or debate, there should be no need for any interference by government officials or state authorities. 

When the conflation of content and context resulted in damaging the social fabric of harmony, increased religious and racial tensions, disrupting social peace and harm public safety, enforcement actions are not only necessary, they are vital to restore peaceful social order. This is however applicable only in genuinely democratic societies. The strength of democracy does not however require the prohibition of falsehoods, but in their counter arguments and vigorous rebuttal where they matter.

Ironically, in freely democratic elections, the amounts of misinformation which deploy deliberate online and print falsehoods often multiply to overwhelm the voters.  Examples from the USA, UK, Europe and neighbouring nations require no elaboration.

However, to advocate by insisting on absolute truthfulness during elections is disingenuous and naïve. It is also a no-brainer proposition. Internet accessibility drives the momentum of both volume and quantity of information and misinformation.  Just as misinformation, half-truths and fake news are part and parcel of daily human society, they are also indispensably integral for many politicians during elections to grab and win the benefits of power and privileges.  

Use IoT to Manage onLine Falsehoods 
A non-partisan infrastructure comprising a mix of local and foreign election watchers with security enforcement powers is needed to assure that social peace is preserved and public safety maintained at a high level during and between the election periods.

The key in the effective management of online falsehood is NOT the utopian promotion of truth.  It is in the control and minimisation of the negative disruptive consequences of less-than-truthful information that matters. The following four (4) strategies using Internet-of-Things [IoT] can create a favourable impact:

[1] Technology
Eliminate anonymous internet postings.  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Social Media owners eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … etc must maintain registration of the valid and legitimate names of their subscribers who want to access and be accessible from Singapore.  This would also include any websites who allow feedback and comments on all things Singaporeans. Web-site and social media owners shall be held legally and punitively responsible for harm and damage to individuals and public safety.

[2] Education
Develop a high level of debating skills in our students, including critical thinking and independent thought.  Regular research and essay writing on contentious subjects, field trips, followed by presentations and questions from peers, teachers and visitors would help to reduce students’ simple-minded gullibility and naivety.  

[3] Public Discourse
Promote regular public forum to encourage debates and critical discussions on interesting subject topics, and to learn the etiquette of mutually respectful conversations.  This would also raise the quality of comments and debates on the internet.

[4] Legal and Regulatory
Without anonymity, online actors who choose to cause social chaos and mischief, harm public safety, denigrate self-respect and destroy self-esteem of individuals and communities should face the full extent of incarceration and other legal punitive measures.

Freedom is our noble and privileged foundation to secure for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and fellow Singaporeans the right to speak and write truth to power and the world. Every Singaporean should be educated to know and understand that they should not pre-digest any opinion unthinkingly, and they should not gullibly swallow everything that come through the internet and social media taps.  
Read, listen and research everything of relevance and interest; question all but believe none of them; and arrive at your very own conclusions. There is no other victorious way to combat deliberate online falsehoods.  



Virgo4949 said...

Two in Three Singaporeans had difficulty in knowing what is falsehoods??

That's why the PAP can win every Elections.

LKY said Singaporeans Dafts, really Dafts.

MAN WITH For sight to screw their backsides.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

'It is not within the capability and capacity of the Parliamentary Select Committee into Deliberate Online Falsehoods (PSCDOF), nor does it has the wisdom, competency and moral aptitude, to recommend and define the parameters of the vast arrays of applicable and practicable truths for the diverse Singapore population.' Michael Heng

These are ordinary human beans that arrogate themselves to think they are gods or godlike. Common, please look in the mirror and ask yourself, who do you think you are to tell the people what they can read or cannot read, what is real or fake news?

Good piece Mike. Well said.

Anonymous said...

"Read, listen and research everything of relevance and interest; question all but believe none of them; and arrive at your very own conclusions."

Please lah, Sinkies where got time and interest for all this? They are already struggling to make more money to cope with the high cost of living in Sinkieland, u know.

And for those who already got lots of money, why bother? At most just come to RB blog to kong song lan par song lah and vote PAP come election time.

Anonymous said...

Common, please look in the mirror and ask yourself, who do you think you are to tell the people what they can read or cannot read, what is real or fake news?
RB 8:58 am

Who do they think they are?

Of course they think they are given the strong mandate by the people to tell the people what they can read or cannot read, what is real or fake news lah.

Not true meh?

Anonymous said...

My middle finger to them.

Anonymous said...

When one looks into space.everything
In space is not fake.fake is something
People making up or setting up.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

I don't know how or where these Singaporean authority cocksuckers got their data, but I think their reporting the numbers to the public is probably bullshit as well.

Unfortunately, the teaching of hard-core critical thinking skills is absent in the education system. I suspect the reasons are obvious: the moment kids are able to think clearly, they will not be easily fooled or cajoled into being "obedient" just so a bunch of motherfucking adults can be "happy".

Lucky for the internet, the curious, motivated and smart kids can learn these skills online, practice on each other, before the face authority or parents and shit in their demanding, controlling mouths.

Amos Yee comes to mind. So does Roy Ngreng. See what the PAP did to them? Yeah, nice one PAP---can't win an argument? Use violence, lawsuits and threats. WOW! Really 1st world thinking right there! 🤣

When the PAP treats the general population like a tribe of uneducated tree-dwellers, they need to be slapped, in public. Give them back a taste of their own medicine....

....like right now, spruicking utter fucking bloody from a perforated anus, BULLSHIT about "fake news" .

Is it ok then for the Straight Times to publish fake fucking news? Of course. The media is owned and controlled by the govt. There you are: you taxes and CPF working for you to keep the cuntry safe. 🤑(? what the fucking fuck fuck).

Unless you are involved in some kind of contract writing and speaking falsehoods, deceit, outright lies, made-up-from-whole-cloth-stuff...IS PERFECTLY OK, and should be encouraged because it requires IMAGINATION and CREATIVITY! 🤪

If there's a contract in place, then you have to be truthful.🤖

>> the emergent motherhood consensus is that deliberate online falsehoods can fracture and rapture social trust to the extent as to injure public safety and harm social order should they lead to pervasive and destructive civil disobedience. <<

𝓕uck all their 𝓜other's smelly rotting 𝓒hee-𝒷yes. This is BULLSHIT in it's purest form. Singapore, this should be the last straw for you. If this gets worse: WE ARE ALL SILENCED.

Hunter said...

Mr Heng, Well Done! Very well written and elaborately presented. Keep it up.

The main culprits of fake news are those in authority and power. No two-way about it. Everybody knows politicians in power make use of the mass media to launch Psychological Operations (to brain-was own citizens and voters) and Psychological Warfare (against foreign countries).

The more a government tries to point the finger the other way, the more the public must suspect the ulterior motive behind.

Hunter said...

When you have dishonest, insincere, crooked scoundrels in positions of power, they without a doubt would maneouvre their way firstly to cover their own arsks; and secondly, to obtain more and more power in order to suppress and silent those who are bound to expose their cunning, ruthless, self-centred, self-praise, self-enriching and self-righteous deeds and words.

The Internet is here to stay. The Cyberspace is the new Battle Ground for the dissemination of information of all sorts, truth, half-truth, lies, etc.

The Internet is meant for all humans to use freely without restrictions and limitations, except to hold personal/organizational responsibility. No single person (dictator) or group of people (political opportunits), rich or poor, powerful or weak, government or citizens, ) should be allowed to control and dominate the NARRATIVE Online.

No governments (actually run by a very small group of politicians) - no matter how genuine, how caring, how trustworthy, how above-board - must be allowed to set the agenda for everybody (the masses) under the pretext of national intetests, national security, or whatever seemingly convincing bullshits.

If any government or group of politicians tries to set the agenda to tackle "fake news" (highly debatable), it must first point the finger in its own direction and towards the mainstream media that it controls.

Whatever new laws and regulations must cover ALL CHANNELS of Dissemination of Information - the government agencies, the mainstream media (public and private), the trade, business and commercial sectors, the advertising and communications industries, the diplomatic channels, and lastly the commoners.

The commoners should not be the first to be targeted and to bear the brunt of whatever new laws and regulations introduced. The commoners, mainly weak, unaware, deprived of other means of mass dissemination of information other than the Internet, should and must not be used as an excuse or scapegoat for the government's hidden agenda.

Notwithstanding, without prejudice, the commoners must learn and from now on, endeavour to turn its head against the body of the double-headed snake (harmless or poisonous) whenever falsehood, half-truth, misinformation, disinformation and propaganda appeats in the government's mouthpiece and the mainstream media.

Hunter of Fake News Animals.

Anonymous said...

Actually all these fake news committee set up shows one thing & that is: The garmen is very Very Very Scared of 'fake' news being fed to the public Unchecked & Unauthorized & Uncensored. It's like someone's body being stripped Naked for everybody to see. That's why they set up a 'See No Evil,Hear No Evil & Speak No Evil' establishment to Check,Censor & Authenticate the validity of these news. Failure to do will cause the them to lose more votes & ultimately their own demise.

Anonymous said...

Socio-political commentators have weighed in on the issue since news of the Select Committee broke, questioning how the government intends to curb fake news besides postulating what exactly might constitute fake news online.

Some have even called on the authorities to look at “falsehoods” the government itself may have propagated before taking measures to combat such news broadcast by others.

One such voice belongs to local filmmaker Martyn See, who posted a list entitled “Top 10 Fake News that the PAP keeps perpetuating” online back in November last year.

In the post, which he has re-shared on his Facebook page in the wake of the formation of the Select Committee, See lists the following ten statements as supposed falsehoods spread by the ruling party:

1. Singapore was a fishing village before 1965.

2. Singapore is a meritocracy.

3. Singapore has parliamentary democracy.

4. Elections in Singapore are free and fair.

5. The mainstream press is fair, objective and responsible.

6. High salaries attract competent and honest politicians.

7. Foreign talents create more jobs.

8. There is rule of law in Singapore.

9. The ISD do not torture detainees.

10. Lee Kuan Yew is Singapore’s founding father.

Hunter said...

On Barking At "Fake News" Part 1/2

When Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was tweaking its algorithm to tune out news media, he wasn’t motivated by the brotherhood of man. Amidst the coming crackdown on “fake news”, he seems to have concluded that being left to choose which news is fake and which isn’t simply wasn’t worth the bother. Who could blame him?

Earlier this month the French President Emmanuel Macron declared his intention to ban online “fake news” during Presidential elections, "in order to protect democracy". What a joke?

That came days after a German law passed onto the statute book making social media giants like Facebook and Twitter remove hate speech and fake news from their platforms within 24 hours of being flagged or face fines of up to 50 million euros. Great money-making opportunity?

In Britain the Parliamentary enquiry into “fake news” is now in full swing, and is inviting submissions into “disinformation” and how best to deal with it.

Tiny one-party-rule Singapore's legal hawks have wasted no time in going through the process of demonizing "fake news" at all costs by appointing a Select Committee?

Obviously, President Trump is not alone wanting to clamp down on “fake news.”

Research across a variety of jurisdictions by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, reveals that the vicious bun-fight over the contents of our news diet is quickly hardening into demands for legislative fix – and that those solutions may turn out to be worse than the problem.

The suggested institutional cures for “fake news” involve not only the blunt instrument of law. Panicky big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as big foundations, are spending money on sometimes dubious “fact-checking” and “verification” exercises; sometimes they involve high-tech algorithms, at other times paying for pointy-headed “fact-checkers” to sit in the corner of the newsroom and selectively check the facts assembled by others.

Most of us believe in polishing up truths and weeding out falsehoods, and there’s certainly a monumental pile of nonsense out there on social media, but the problem with “fake news” is one of definition.

Hunter of Dogs Barking Up Wrong Trees

To continue.....

Hunter said...

On Barking At "Fake News" Part 2/2

Navigating the fog of rumour and conspiracy on social media means that the job of investigative journalism is as important as ever, and is often now less about breaking the silence than cutting through the noise. But how do we separate satirical material, or pure entertainment, from news which hangs its authority on the fact that’s it’s true?

And it’s not only the fact-free, rumour mill of social media which can get its facts wrong. Journalism is by its very definition the first draft of history – very often it makes mistakes as it feels its way towards the truth. But in an era of dwindling budgets for real labour-intensive journalism, our news diet is thick with additives – PR outfits, partisan think tanks, activists, NGOs, and material ripped shamelessly from Twitter.

If we are honest with ourselves, the real problem of “fake news” stems from a deeply serious crisis of trust between the mainstream media and the audience which it serves.

It might help if the same big tech companies who have got rich by rolling up the advertising model of our newspapers helped to pay for more professional journalists, or to train them, rather than this technocratic army of “fact-checkers” and moderators.

It certainly can’t be solved by a Select Committee of unprofessional part-time members of parliament pretending to have all the knowledge and answers, or by judges in the courts, or by governments legislating for what’s true and what’s not.

Anyone who has worked in authoritarian countries knows that the first weapon of authoritarian regimes is to make a brute distinction between the truth and “lies” or “false news” and then intimidate and criminalise the latter.

In China, around two million “moderators” are employed by social media firms to scour social media and err on the side of caution when they see something which might incur the wrath of the authorities.

A good many European democracies are inching their way down this same slippery slope. In decades to come it will become clear that their gambit was a dangerous will-o’-the-wisp.

The only enlightened way forward is to let the audience decide, to leave decisions about truth and falsity to the evolving, sometimes fractious court of public opinion. Anything else, including this crazy-frenzy spell of legislation to punish “fake news” producers, is certain to make the problem dangerously worse.

Don't say you have not been warned in ample time.

Hunter of Dogs Barking Up Wrong Trees - March 2018

Mikospace said...

As Singapore begins to hunt for perpetrators of deliberate falsehoods, remember the Maria Hertogh racial riots in Dec 1950 which left 18 dead, 173 injured, as well as 72 vehicles burnt, 119 vehicles damaged, and massive damage to personal property?

THAT HUGE Riot, often quoted to support racial harmony, was NOT caused by falsehoods!

In fact, the Maria Hertogh racial riots were triggered by the TRUTHFUL revelation and Court decision that Maria, a Christian, in fact belonged rightfully to her Christian Dutch parents. And that her Muslim foster parents entrusted by her parents to look after her have no legal rights to retain her. I suspect that given the SAME circumstances, the same social disharmony and civil disobedience would repeat today, with greater speed and ferocity via social media!

Falsehoods and Truths are both destructive forces of social harmony and peaceful order when politicised and amplified by politicians and community leaders to suit their agenda.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

@ Michael;

Humans, especially children and others who are the weakest members of any reasonably DEVELOPED society, do not belong to parents, they belong with their parents...or whomever the court decides; given that the rule of law is what everyone in a territory adheres to.

Subsequents points have to do with the period when this occurred.

1. There was more religiosity back then, i.e. more people back then were divided along religious lines. Inter-marrying between individuals from different religious sects was generally frowned upon. Racial divisions had similar cultural practices.

2. More people were less educated then. They were also not exposed to "different ideas" like they qare today. i.e. much less education, much less diversity of opinion, much less tolerance of diverse opinions.

3. Today people say all sorts of "offensive" outrageous shit online. The bickering and fights are never-ending in cyberspace. But rarely, if ever do these online battles play out in the real world. There is more diversity now. We all more or less agree what our basic "rights" are, and we are much better educated.

The PAP is either ignorant or just being power-crazy. Online falsehoods are a part of life now. You can have your silly Singapore laws against falsehoods, but good luck trying to "punish" users of say 4chan, Encyclopedia Dramitica and other "shocking" sites out there. (there are MILLIONS of them, in every language)

>> Falsehoods and Truths are both destructive forces of social harmony and peaceful order when politicised and amplified by politicians and community leaders to suit their agenda.

They can be...especially if the polity is under educated and not exposed to the world. Singaporeans are global nomads. Although we joke about how "dumb" people of different political positions are (e.g. pro PAP ==> dumb anti PAP==> dumb ...never ending), many Singaporeans are wicked smart.

Singaporeans own their successes. Sure, the govt helped out...but individual people had to put in the effort---not for the cuntry, but for themselves individually and for their families, their businesses or their work.

This nation's success isn't the sole result only because of Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP. The people worked bloody hard as well, generation after generation...even before the PAP came to power.

Lee kuan Yew dissed the "Chattering Classes". But that's who we are, like other human being everywhere...we like to talk shit with each other.

Now the PAP---either ignorant or just plain nasty---wants to make "talking shit" a crime.

As to the question "What happens if there's a riot?"

So what? If you like freedom, an occasional riot shouldn't be a problem. Just as if you think modern transport makes our lives better, the occasional fatal accident is just occasional "bad stuff" which occurs. And so, as probablity would have it, drunk Indians had a real doozy of a riot a few years ago in Serangoon cos one of them was silly enough to play Superman with a bus. ��

After a big noise in the media and in govt circles...all back to normal. No booze for Indians. A bit drastic if you ask me...I had been predicting the riot in Serangoon Road for over 20 years. I used to shop at Mustapha in the 1990's and observed the goings on the Sunday's I would venture there.

But trust the PAP to over-react to negative situations with their Iron Fist... Seriously, their way of applying the force of the state is DISPROPORTIONATE to the situation.

Singaporeans buying cheap fuel in JB? 3/4 tank Rule! (no, not a "rule", it's the LAW). Chewing gum driving the govt nuts? Ban chewing gum. Long hair associated with 'bad people"? Ban long hair. (So now you have bad people with short hair. How intelligent or logical is that?)

Our nation has a long history of making really unintelligent law. And it looks like it's going to continue.