The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced Tuesday that it has received a record number of complaints under the upcoming Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (currently still a Bill). Citizens allege that Nuseir Yassin, better known by his online name Nas Daily, is responsible for spreading misleading information about complex political issues and have urged the Prime Minister to order a take-down of his content.
PMO spokesperson Jin Gek Sim said her team was investigating the matter. “We’re a little overwhelmed right now – usually we just get angry letters demanding that we return people’s CPF or lower HDB prices. Those we ignore, because they’re obviously for other Ministries to handle and Whole-of-Government only goes so far. But now we’ve got thousands of letters and this new law makes all Ministers responsible for sussing out falsehoods, so we’re working overtime.”
When asked if the team was having difficulty divining the truth of Yassin’s claims about our country, she said the problem was much worse. “I wish it were just Singapore,” she said. “All he said was we’re really great, NEWater is the shit, and Pulau Semakau is like Korean drama: trash, but awesome trash.”
“But he’s got hundreds of videos, and some of them – well, look here,” she continued, pulling a letter from her desk, “this woman complains that ‘Nas Daily’s analysis of the Israel-Arab conflict erases the complex socio-political history of great power resource geopolitics in favour of a simplistic view that the war would end if everyone just sang kumbaya‘. She attached a book. I thought it was bad when that Sang Kancil Budget Speech meant I had to go study Southeast Asian folklore. Now you expect me to read The Arab-Israeli Conflict by David Lesch?!”
Complainants, however, argued they were simply doing their part to maintain the quality of civic discourse. “As Minister Shanmugam said in Parliament, online falsehoods are a huge problem for our society,” said Abelard Kok, who complained that Yassin’s video on Dubai ignored the emirate’s use of modern-day slavery and position as the nexus of global human and capital flows. “If they are not dealt with, then free speech itself is undermined, and democracy is under threat. It’d be best if Nas Daily moved elsewhere – I’m not sure if Singaporeans are ready for a non-Chinese public figure who makes sweeping generalizations based on anecdotal evidence.”
While PMO officials struggled to keep up with complaints, government leaders were pleased with the response. “I think this shows that Singaporeans have a real enthusiasm for ferreting out fake news, and that they trust our government and civil service to determine what is true and what is false,” said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam. “An IPS study we commissioned before the Bill was introduced showed that 78% of Singaporeans believe the government must be the final arbiter of truth, and with this response, we can safely say that IPS studies are always accurate.”
Before we could continue the interview, Minister Shanmugam left citing urgent matters. At press time, sources reported that Abelard Kok was under arrest on suspicion of hateful and offensive speech for his latest comments on Nas Daily.