Agence France-Presse

A Singapore lawmaker hit out at Facebook on Tuesday, saying that Facebook had reneged on a promise to help rein in fake news.

He called for tougher regulations, which the social media firm had cautioned against.

The criticism follows Facebook’s refusal this month of a government request to remove an online article about the city-state’s banks and Malaysia’s scandal-linked 1MDB state fund.

This news, the government said, was false and malicious.

“Facebook has…given assurances that it will work closely with the Singapore authorities to swiftly address online falsehoods.

”Yet, when there’s an actual falsehood that attacks Singapore, Facebook refuses to remove the content,” Edwin Tong told parliament.

It was not immediately clear what assurances he was referring to.

“It (Facebook) will allow itself to be a platform for the spread of lies, falsity to poison and divide society through such lies, encourage xenophobia and profit from that,” Tong added.

Tong is Singapore’s senior minister of state for law.

This month’s incident “reinforces” the need for legislation, said Tong.

Tong is also on a panel of lawmakers that has recommended the government consider legislation to tackle the spread of online falsehoods or ‘fake news’.

Regarding its refusal to take down the post, Facebook earlier said in an emailed statement it did not have a policy “that prohibits alleged falsehoods.

“It has situations where this content has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm.”

Contacted for comment following Tong’s remarks, a Facebook spokeswoman referred the media to the firm’s previous statement.

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority this month said Facebook had declined its request to take down a post linking to the article by an Australian-based independent blogger.

“Facebook has declined to take down a post that is clearly false, defamatory and attacks Singapore, using falsehoods,” the law ministry said.

Facebook, has previously sparred with the government over fake news.

It has its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore and recently unveiled plans to invest one billion dollars in its first Asian data center in the city-state.

In March, Law Minister K Shanmugam questioned during a parliamentary debate whether social media networks were capable of regulating themselves.

Meanwhile, senior Facebook executives pushed back at the idea of further laws to battle fake news.

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