“Fake News” In Singapore
There are stories that are circulating all over the Internet that are totally untrue, and it’s a global thing.
The phenomenon has been present for awhile now, but the term that describes it has only gained currency in the past year: Fake news.
Britain’s Brexit referendum was seemingly galvanised by misleading stories, whereas during the United States presidential election, real news was overshadowed by their fake counterparts on Facebook.
It’s so serious that Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam has addressed the issue of dealing with fake news that happen right here in Singapore.
While the definition of “fake news” needs to be refined, here are some recent hoaxes that people in Singapore have been hoodwinked by that people may deem as “fake news”:
1. Lee Kuan Yew Death Hoax
Singaporeans were stunned on March 18, 2015 afer a screenshot announcing the death of founding father Lee Kuan Yew, appearing to be sent from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), circulated online.
Several credible news sources like Cable News Network (CNN) and China’s CGTN (formerly known as CCTV-NEWS) were also taken for a ride and disseminated the false information.
The PMO notified the police and investigations revealed the culprit behind the fake screenshot was a teenage boy who was 16 years old at the time.
According to the Vulcan Post, the teenager was “annoyed at the rumours about Lee Kuan Yew’s passing and he wanted to demonstrate how easy it actually is for a hoax to be perpetuated”.
Well, he did prove his point on how effortless it is for inaccurate news to spread in this day and age.
Fortunately for him, he was let off with a stern warning in lieu of prosecution.
Mr Lee sadly died on March 23, 2015, aged 91, just days after.
2. Yishun Breast Checkup
In something that can perhaps only happen in Yishun, a dubious flyer that bemused residents made the rounds.
All Singapore Stuff alerted netizens of the suspicious brochure that was supposedly produced by the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS).
According to the flyer, which wasn’t written in very good English, SCS would be conducting checks on women for breast cancer on the stipulated dates. It also said the women would be required to be bar-less for the check, then later went further in saying they would have to be fully naked.
Better still, the flyer said they would charge women between $50 and $100 for the “check”, depending on how lumpy their breasts were.
SCS chief executive Albert Ching told The Straits Times that the flyer “is in no way related to the cancer screening services” that the organization offers. The society also lodged a police report.
It’s unclear whether the flyer was a joke or the devious perverts behind it actually planned to carry out those “checks”. And we hope no residents fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
3. Photograph Becomes Photoshop
In January 2016, Nikon Singapore received much flak during its monthly amateur photography competition on Facebook.
Singaporean photographer Chay Yu Wei was awarded with a $169 Nikon trolley bag in recognition of the phenomenal photo he had taken.
When quizzed on how long he had waited for the plane to pass overhead, Mr Chay lied “not too long, I was lucky” before inserting two smiling emojis, reported the BBC.
But I guess his smile didn’t last long, with numerous photographers flooding his Instagram to call him out for deceit.
What was the problem? The photo was photoshopped — and it seemed like Nikon was the only party who was out of the loop.
Come on Nikon, it doesn’t take a genius to realize something’s fishy about this photograph:
A helpful user tinkered with the image’s colour levels via Photoshop and it clearly showed the pixelated plane was edited in.
Both Nikon Singapore and Mr Chay were left red-faced and apologized for their mistakes.
You can read Mr Chay’s full apology here.
4. Fine For Leaving Used Tissue
It’s the natural order for Singaporeans to claim their territory at kopitiams by leaving a packet of tissue on the tables. Chope!
But are you aware that leaving behind used tissues after a meal could get you slapped with a $200 fine by the National Environment Agency (NEA)?
At least that’s if you believed this viral message that spread over What’sApp in March.
The NEA responded swiftly to quash this false claim, setting diner’s hearts at ease.
One netizen in fact opined that the fake news caused Singaporeans to be more aware of the bad habit of leaving their used tissues behind.
Maybe fake news can be beneficial in some situations?
5. Fake DJ At Zouk
Imagine partying at a nightclub and finding out that an internationally acclaimed DJ was in the house to spin a couple of tracks. Clubbers would go stark raving bonkers, and not because of the alcohol.
That was exactly what unfolded on Sept 10, 2016, when DJ Marshmello turned up uninvited to Zouk.
Or so it seemed.
As it transpired, the “DJ Marshmello” that appeared was an impostor. But nobody seemed to be the wiser. Why, the fake DJ was even allowed to spin a few sets!
The whole situation was further exacerbated when one of Zouk’s own DJs, DJ Jade Rasif, slammed them for their lack of integrity.
Irked by the whole saga, the real DJ Marshmello took to Twitter to shame one of the top nightclubs in the world. He even reserved special praise for DJ Jade Rasif.
In a feeble attempt to clear their name, Zouk Singapore tried to clarify how the confusion came about, saying the impostor was actually a guest.
Not everyone bought their story though.
Well, it’s no biggie. We think a little bit of alcohol in conjunction with flashing strobe lights on the dance floor would have everyone forgetting this episode in a jiffy.
At least until the high from the liquor runs out.
6. “Abusive” Childcare Centre
A childcare centre in River Valley found themselves in the headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this year.
In February, they were accused of negligence and abuse of the kids placed in their care.
A nauseating photograph showed a child sleeping in his own faeces, with claims suggesting he ate it too.
Another photograph depicted how the children were made to sleep on the floor without mattresses.
Even the quality of the food served to the children came under scrutiny, as it was alleged that rotten fruits were part of their diet.
In a statement to the media, Sam’s Early Learning Centre said the photos were taken out of context, and believed the photos were circulated by an unhappy former employee who has since returned to China, reported The Straits Times.
The centre said the toddler in the cot had the habit of pulling his diapers off while having a bowel movement during his nap time.
The children lying on the floor were doing stretching and breathing exercises, it added.
As for the rotten fruits, they were “uncut fruit not ready to be served to children”, it said.
Parents of children were unanimously supportive of the centre, with 35 of them signing a letter to support it.
Their trust and faith paid off, as investigations conducted by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) revealed nothing untoward occurred at Sam’s Early Learning Centre.
7. Enticing “FairPrice” Vouchers
A $100 discount coupon for spending $120 at FairPrice?! Such a mouthwatering proposition would have most aunties chionging to splurge at the nearest FairPrice outlet. But could it really be true?
The first red flag was the obviously shady website link that users were redirected to, “Fairprices.com.xyz” — come on, really? Since when is there an “s” after FairPrice?
But oblivious netizens went ahead and spread the word over social media anyway.
Alas, NUTC FairPrice warned netizens that the voucher was bogus.
A similar case occurred end March 2017. This time, $300 FairPrice gift vouchers were offered for spending $100 at FairPrice stores. But kudos to FairPrice for swiftly debunking the scam yet again.
Lesson learnt: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Though as a goodwill gesture, we think FairPrice should note the popularity of these vouchers and just go ahead and release some real vouchers to appease netizens, no?
8. Paid Day Off
When the annual imported haze from Indonesia swamped our skies in Sept 2015, the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) hit hazardous levels.
But the dire pollution became an unexpected boon for primary and secondary students, who were given an extra long weekend on Sept 25 after their schools were closed, although polytechnic, junior college and university students still had to begrudgingly lug their lifeless souls to school.
On the night of Sept 24, however, some workers may have thought they were let off the hook too, after an apparent Ministry of Manpower (MOM) press release over social media informed them of a “voluntary non-work day” — i.e. employers were encouraged to give their staff a paid day off in light of the worsening haze.
The post brought temporary joy to the working adults who might have failed to notice the rampant grammatical errors in the so-called MOM release.
Their hopes were crushed when MOM clarified that the “voluntary non-work day” was but a sham.
9. “Tuas Fire” Video
A massive inferno at a waste management plant in Tuas, the second in 5 years, lighted up the Singapore skyline before engulfing it in dark plumes of smoke on Feb 23.
Videos of the Tuas fire showed apocalyptic scenes that one might mistake to be from a Hollywood movie.
One video in particular spread like wildfire over social media, and had people’s hearts in their mouths. Check out the dramatic explosion.
However, The Straits Times confirmed that the aforementioned video was not of the Tuas fire. Apparently, it was of an explosion at a gas plant in China, and was posted on YouTube in both 2016 and 2015.
10. “Video” Of $239,000 Meal
Over the recent Chinese New Year period, a group of 20 diners ate their way through a dinner that put your $88 yusheng to shame.
Their celebration at the Feng Shui Inn in Resorts World Sentosa cost a whopping $239,326.47 — enough to buy a BTO flat or 2 Toyota Corolla Altis cars.
A video, courtesy of Facebook page Kuanyewism, was subsequently circulated that apparently gave viewers a peek into the extraordinary dinner.
Now, if you were observant, you would notice that the diners in the video were feasting on Taiwanese cuisine, whereas Feng Shui Inn serves Cantonese cuisine. So there’s something fishy here.
Upon further investigation, the video was revealed not to be of the $239,326.47 meal.
Don’t Trust Everything On The Net
The influence of social media is unparalleled and information can literally be found with a few clicks of a button.
However, the ease at which one can acquire information also reflects how effortless it is for others to upload content online — be it authentic or false.
So we should be aware that fake news is alarmingly prevalent on the Internet. It pays to be sharp and questioning whenever you chance upon information that seems far-fetched.
Combating fake news isn’t straightforward, but you can start by verifying the authenticity of information before you “share” such content to others.