Singapore opposition hit with misinformation law before polls

Above, workers hang an electoral poster on a tree at a neighborhood ahead of the general election in Singapore on June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Singapore opposition hit with misinformation law before polls

  • Ministers can order social media sites to put warnings next to posts the government considers false and order pages be blocked

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s government has used a controversial online misinformation law to order an opposition party to correct a social media post, days after campaigning got underway for an election next week.
Under the law, ministers can order social media sites to put warnings next to posts the government considers false and order pages be blocked, but critics fear it is being used to suppress dissent.
On Thursday the government ordered Peoples Voice to correct a video posted on Facebook and YouTube and the opposition party complied, putting up banners saying it contains inaccurate information.
In the video, party chief Lim Tean said the government spends a quarter of a billion Singapore dollars ($180 million) “providing free education for foreigners every year.”
A government website aimed at debunking untrue information said the video contained “a false and misleading statement,” as a significant majority of such students have to pay fees higher than local students.
The large number of foreigners in the city-state has become a hot-button issue ahead of the election, with the opposition pressing the government to put Singaporeans first when it comes to job opportunities.
People’s Voice is among a handful of small opposition groups taking on the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) at the July 10 vote.
While the PAP is expected to remain in power, the opposition hopes to win more seats in parliament.
Since the misinformation law came into force last year, several opposition figures and activists have been ordered to correct posts while Facebook has been forced to block pages on several occasions.
The tech giant said last month the use of the law is “severe” and risks stifling free speech, while Google and Twitter have also expressed concerns.
But authorities insist the measure is necessary to stop falsehoods from circulating online that could sow divisions in the multi-ethnic, multi-faith country of 5.7 million.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”