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Singapore considers a war on fake news

Singapore’s new draft legislation targeting fake news, while sounding promising on the surface, opens up a range of significant issues and grey areas. “False statements of fact” would be illegal under the proposed law. Anti-censorship critics and supporters of freedom of speech worry that nobler conspiracy theories and strong opinions might be censured along with more blatant mistruths and hate speech, and that at any rate it shouldn’t government being the one with ultimate authority on deciding what gets a pass and what’s deemed unfit to be shared. The differences between misinformation, libel and things best not shared at all are open to question.


Who should judge?


Whether the likes of Google or national governments are better institutions for making tough judgment calls on what constitutes fake news or false advertising is a legitimate question. Whether news articles, social media posts and advertisements should come under the scrutiny of best practices, more stringent rules and regulations or actual laws is the question at hand. Current regulations in Singapore, as elsewhere, are already used to target certain forms of expression. Under the proposed legislation, additional stiff penalties a fine up to S$100,000 or, up to 10 years behind bars, or both, could be applied.


Digital mistruths to be targeted


The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill certainly gives pause for thought on exactly what might or might not be info which is considered to be “prejudicial”, against “public tranquility”, against the spirit of “friendly relations” with other countries, or “an inauthentic online account or controlled by a bot”. Free speech, with effects on digital marketers’ spicier statements on the products and services they promote, could be muffled out of concern of not wanting to come anywhere close to being on the wrong side of the law. If the proposed law becomes official, digital marketers will likely have to find out for themselves exactly what will be allowed under the law.


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All change with Facebook and its algorithm for advertisers

Facebook’s recent purge of clickbait and the reprioritizing of deep content and posts by friends could make quality content relevant on the platform once more.

Facebook is forcing people to create quality and relevant content. The social media giant recently unveiled its biggest news feed algorithm change to date; it now favors content from friends and family over posts from companies and politicized material. So where does this leave advertisers?

Facebook has said that the new changes will not affect paid posts on the platform, although CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) may increase. The changes are aimed at removing clickbait; those annoying shouty adds that use either controversial titles or make ridiculous claims as to the product’s benefits. They have long frustrated users, often appearing higher in the news feed than posts from friends or loved ones. Facebook won’t admit it publically, but it’s an effort to stem people moving away from the site, which some see as now being an endlessly repetitive space for dreary pointlessness, and so don’t bother to look at it.

Brands already know that they get little visibility from unpaid content on Facebook. Organic content doesn’t work as well as paid posts for sure. However the new move may make some headway into leaning back into these two truisms. Brands will probably have to abandon push marketing and create content that potential customers value or wish to see.

There is a lot of concern in the online space with marketers globally surrounding this issue. Many are preparing to advise clients to move part of their tactical spend to Instagram, Snapchat or other channels. This is interesting as it may turn out to create the exact result that Facebook didn’t want, and so the situation will continue to evolve.

We would say that there is no cause for panic. The correct content (now able to be deeper, of better quality and therefore better able to connect to consumers in our clients’ target markets) and correctly targeted will continue to drive success for brand building and sales growth on the FB channel.

Please speak to us for free advice or to request a project-specific consultation.

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