Yesterday, in a span of half a day, there’s a déjà vu of 2015.
Well not exactly a mirror incident, but somehow similar.
Back in 2015, The Real Singapore, an alterative news site, was ordered to shut down by 3 May 2015 before 8:00 p.m. By 7:30 p.m. that night, the website closed down, and its social media platforms all disappeared as well.
Yesterday, another site, States Times Review, which operates pretty similar to The Real Singapore, was ordered to remove an article by a specific time. However, it didn’t comply and there you are, reading these thirteen facts about the shutdown.
However, read on because as an online publisher as well, we do know something that normal users might not know.
What is States Times Review?
Think of it as The Real Singapore—it was born shortly after The Real Singapore went offline. According to its description, it is “an Australia-based blog covering Singapore news”.
If you’re a regular reader of the site, you’ll know it’s more than that: it is an anti-establishment site that, well, feed on people’s anger against the authorities.
In a few short years, the platform has garnered about 50K Likes in Facebook
And to add on to that, try Googling “States Times Review” and see what Google suggests.
Not we say one hor. Google say one hor. Google is the most reliable source of information, no?
States Times Review: Fake News?
Back in 2017, Minister of Law K Shanmugam cited two examples of fake news platforms: States Times Review and All Singapore Stuff. In both instances, he showed examples of how the platforms have “purveyed falsehoods, mislead the public and render truth completely irrelevant.”
All Singapore Stuff website is now not active, but its Facebook Page is still sharing viral contents.
Who Founded States Times Review?
The site is founded by Alex Tan, who apparently contested in the 2011 General Election in Ang Mo Kio GRC under Reform Party. His team lost the election, garnering 30.67% of votes.
He is also a former editor of other anti-establishment defunct websites like Temasek Review and The Real Singapore. He is now working in Australia, and runs STR from there.
I mean, ran STR from there.
Website Supposedly Closing
About a month ago, the website announced its “closure” in response to impending new laws that might take down fake news.
However, despite the announcement, it was still active after that.
Now, of course you might be wondering: What’s this “new laws” about fake news you’ve been reading about?
Fake News Thingy
To list down what happened in the last few months about the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods that is formed earlier this year and had a hearing on March would be too long, and well, too “chim”.
So here’s a simple version: fake news is harmful, authorities understand more about fake news and they are now working on ways to counter that.
Now, before you decide that the headline “Goody Feed is the best company to work for in the entire universe” is fake news, read on.
Because it’s easy to relegate what you don’t agree to as “fake news”, but you might be wrong.
What exactly is fake news?
For a start, fake news is a rather generic term. The term used by our authorities is much more specific: Deliberate Online Falsehoods.
You see, the keywords there are deliberate and falsehoods
If a writer writes an article stating that the boss of Goody Feed is young, handsome and fit, and the writer apparently had seen the wrong boss (she might be convinced one of our handsome actors is the boss), that isn’t deliberate—so it’s not fake news, but a wrong news.
And if you hate the Goody Feed app, but a writer writes that 90% of Singaporeans like the Goody Feed App, you can’t call it fake news as well, because take a look:
Your different opinion doesn’t mind it’s fake news.
(BTW 4.5 out of 5 stars leh. Download lah, numbers don’t lie)
In other words, if you deliberately write or publish a false story, then that is fake news.
If you’ve watched US dramas often, you’ll know that fake news isn’t just harmful to the few people reading it: it could have repercussions on society altogether. So don’t pray pray, there’s a reason why the authorities are stepping in.
So, What Happened to States Times Review?
On Monday, States Times Review published an article, alleging that Malaysia had signed unfair agreements with Singapore for Singapore banks’ assistance to launder funds of 1MDB.
It even linked our PM to the 1MDB.
Suffice to say, such strong allegations would provoke a response from the authorities. Several Malaysia media outlets apparently cited the article.
But soon, when it’s revealed to be fake news, and media outlets that cited STR retracted their stories. Singapore authorities reveal that the article is completely baseless and false, and provided facts to debunk it. Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also filed a police report and police are investigating.
Even the source of the entire 1MDB saga, Sarawak Report, has come out to declare the inaccuracy of the story.
In other words, it can be safely said that it’s “fake news”.
STR Told to Remove Article
IMDA (that’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, not the fund 1MDB) then stepped in, telling STR to remove the offending article by 5:00 p.m. yesterday (9 November 2018), or they would instruct all ISPs in Singapore to block the website.
Their reason is that they have “assessed that the article undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore Government and is objectionable on grounds of public interest, and would therefore constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice.”
But STR refused to remove the article.
Well, IMDA then make good their promise.
By 9:00 p.m., STR wasn’t accessible by Singapore IP
From around 9:00 p.m. yesterday, four hours after the deadline, STR was no longer accessible. If you’re using a Singapore ISP, you’ll see that the website has been blocked by IMDA through the ISPs.
It’s similar to how ISPs would block certain porn website, so it’s nothing new. But placing STR alongside with porn website is…newsworthy, to say the least.
Other than that, the authorities also sought Facebook’s help
Authorities want Facebook to remove post about the article but Facebook refuses
First thing first: STR has Facebook as its main distribution channel, so it all started with an article that’s shared on Facebook.
The authorities also wanted Facebook to remove the post, but Facebook refused.
According to the Ministry of Law, “Facebook does not feel all this is sufficient grounds for it to remove the post.”
STR Declares Its Shutdown
Without its Singapore audience, STR issued a statement, announcing its closure (again). According to its founder, the Facebook Page would be shut down in two weeks and the website would remain until the next General Elections.
Guess what? General Elections has many people all over the world searching for news about Singapore. Do some thinking and you’ll kind of come out with some conclusion #justsaying
Facebook Newsfeed Demote Fake News & Clickbait Links
Lest you’re not aware, Facebook has been fighting fake news for what seems like forever.
This year, Facebook has a major overhaul: other than reducing the reach of all publishers even more, they’re also going to use machine learning to determine if a link is clickbait or fake news.
If they are, they’ll be demoted in the newsfeed, so less (or even no) people would see it.
But you know about this. What’s next would shock you (yes, having clickbait within article is okay).
Facebook Newsfeed Has Indeed Become More “Active”
Remember Mark Zuckerberg’s promise early this year? That he wanted more people to interact more in Facebook instead of passively consuming contents?
Just take a look at STR’s Facebook and you’ll see lots of engagement in a post. But how many actually go in to read the article?
Here’s the shocker: it might not be as much as it used to be.
You see, our own analytics show that if you’ve got a strong headline, people nowadays would read the comments instead of the article. It’s common for people to comment without reading the article nowadays. And the comments are even more fast and furious if the headline makes people angry.
There are many instances whereby we see more people reading the comments than the article.
Suffice to say, that’s Facebook’s goal: to increase engagement (comment) and decrease passive consumption (reading the article).
And what does it mean for platforms like us?
It means a drastic drop in revenue despite strong engagement. And we need readership to pay for our boss’s car, his house and his cats’ food, not engagement.
So, yeah. Many media companies are moving out of Facebook, and publishers that depend solely on Facebook as their distribution platform are closing down.
So, get it?
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