May 30, 2020

The First Amendment - freedom of speech, a blessing often taken for granted

Personal mobility devices - this is a very hot topic on debates in many countries.

I have a colleague who knows a Singaporean and Singa-san (not the actual name) had shared with us a particular screenshot that I would have wanted to include in my entry. I mentioned briefly to them that I started journaling again and would like to do an opinion piece on this issue in the screenshot just for practice. To my surprise, Singa-san looked absolutely mortified.

It (pronoun changed for anonymity) explained that there was a POFMA Bill enacted in Singapore regarding any online communications on Singapore matters (in short). The entire bill proceeds to state that:

"... (2)  In this Act — (a)a statement of fact is a statement which a reasonable person seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving it would consider to be a representation of fact; and(b)a statement is false if it is false or misleading, whether wholly or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.

Purpose of Act 5.  The purpose of this Act is —(a)to prevent the communication of false statements of fact in Singapore and to enable measures to be taken to counteract the effects of such communication;(b)to suppress the financing, promotion and other support of online locations that repeatedly communicate false statements of fact in Singapore;(c)to enable measures to be taken to detect, control and safeguard against coordinated inauthentic behaviour and other misuses of online accounts and bots; and(d)to enable measures to be taken to enhance disclosure of information concerning paid content directed towards a political end..." (Source: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/POFMA2019?TransactionDate=20191001235959#pr5-)

This is extraordinarily different from the First Amendment:

"First Amendment: An Overview

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. It prohibits any laws that establish a national religion, impede the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech, infringe upon the freedom of the press, interfere with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibit citizens from petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments. ..." (Source: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/first_amendment) It extends its coverage to include the Internet and content on social media accounts.

My oh my, I thought to myself. No wonder Singa-san had been rightfully mortified to the point of turning white in the face. I am never a lawbreaker, I try my best to be as law-abiding as possible in fact. The possibility that writing a simple opinion piece on this tiny island in Asia could have turned me into an international criminal felt somewhat hilarious yet frightening. It was like Austin Powers x James Bond, rolled into one movie.

No matter, the laws of other countries must be respected and until I have done more research, opinion pieces on Asian countries would have to be put on a back burner for now.

Written by Seraphim

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