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ASEAN Ministers jointly declare framework to combat fake news

ASEAN Ministers jointly declare framework to combat fake news

On
10 May, Singapore hosted the 14th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers
Responsible for Information (AMRI) and the 15th Conference of ASEAN
Plus Three Ministers Responsible for Information (5th AMRI+3) at Shangri-La
Hotel, Singapore.

The
Conference was chaired by H.E. S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and
Information of Singapore with H.E. Kobsak Pootrakool, Minister Attached to the
Prime Minister's Office of Thailand as Vice Chair.

Minister
Iswaran shared his hopes for the development of a Digital ASEAN that is
inclusive and where multi-stakeholder groups can come together to help citizens
to be better prepared for the digital future. Minister Iswaran also noted that
an inclusive and informed Digital ASEAN reinforces this year’s chairmanship
theme of building collective resilience and promoting innovation among member
countries.

Combating
Fake News

Social
media enables information to be created and exchanged at an unprecedented scale
and speed. This has brought benefits to a large number of people in our
societies, as information can be accessed and shared easily.

The
creation of information on social media is decentralised, unlike on traditional
media structured around licensed media organisations. While content is more
immediate and better reflect the diversity of views and interests in society,
the quality of content varies as creators are not necessarily subject to
traditional regulation or journalistic standards. One key challenge is the use
of social media as a platform for the promulgation of fake news.

Noting
that the issue of fake news, especially on social media platforms, is a growing
challenge globally, the ASEAN Ministers agreed that there was a need for regional
bloc to collaborate and exchange best practices in combatting fake news and
mitigating its harmful effects.

The
ASEAN Ministers endorsed the Framework and Joint Declaration to Minimise the
Harmful Effect of Fake News which would provide a common frame of reference for
ASEAN member states to strengthen cooperation, share ideas, and propose viable solutions
to address the proliferation of fake news and its negative impact, for the
benefit of the people of ASEAN.

The
Framework seeks to:

(1) Provide
a common frame of reference for ASEAN member states to strengthen cooperation,
share ideas, collectively address the proliferation of fake news and its
negative impact, and propose lasting solutions to the benefit of the ASEAN
Community;

(2) Build
on the discussions and concerns arising from the AMRI Roundtable Discussion on
Fake News and Communicating the Right Information. To this end, Singapore also
intends to organise a workshop so that ASEAN member states can share best
practices and experiences concerning fake news countermeasures;

(3)
Promote awareness of the problems caused by fake news to the peoples of ASEAN
and fostering a commitment to prevent the dangers of fake news; and

(4)  Encourage ASEAN member states to stand united
against fake news whilst individual AMS adopt measures according to its
specific national circumstances, laws and regulations.

According
to the Joint Declaration on the Framework to Minimise the Harmful Effects of
Fake News, ASEAN Ministers reaffirmed the need to address the proliferation of
fake news and its negative impact to ensure that the Internet remains a
reliable source of information and a safe space for all users. They also highlighted
the need to continue the sharing of best practices among ASEAN member states on
sensitising citizens to the harmful effects of fake news. At the same time,
they recognised that countermeasures against fake news must respect national
sovereignty and the central role of governments, and be implemented nationally
according to the political and social circumstances of individual ASEAN member states.

The
Framework also suggests the following four broad strategies which member states
tailor according to their unique circumstances:

(1)   
Education and Awareness

The
first line of defence has to be a discerning and well-informed public that is
able to detect fake news when it is presented to them. There must also be
awareness of the dangers posed by fake news, and specifically awareness on the
responsible creation and dissemination of information. The Core Values on
Digital Literacy, aimed at creating an Internet that is safe and conducive for
online engagements also supports this cause, and is a key complement to this
strategy. There must also be efforts to educate the public to be responsible
when creating and disseminating information.

(2)   
Detection and Response

The
detection of and response towards fake news is the responsibility of everyone,
including governments, organisations and private individuals. Governments
should conduct regular monitoring of news and issues and quickly act on
information that requires clarification. This requires strong and trusted
government communications. Organisations and media can contribute by
fact-checking content and adhering to a strict code of ethics.

(3)   
Norms and Guidelines

The
creation of norms and guidelines will empower and protect citizens in their
consumption of information in the new media and will also promote responsible
generation and sharing of online information. In addition, civil society,
telecoms and media organisations and other private companies could contribute
towards developing industry norms and guidelines against fake news. While some
countries have opted to develop legislative responses to fake news, each
country is encouraged to consider their own circumstances for the creation of
laws, norms and/or guidelines.

(4)   
Community and Ground Up Participation

Cooperation
between the government and citizenry is important in the timely detection of
fake news. Citizens who actively report fake news allow governments to issue
clarifications efficiently. In addition, civil society groups are also key in
spreading digital literacy and awareness of the dangers posed by fake news to
the wider community, and may improve community participation in minimising the
spread of fake news. They may also be useful advocates for community centred
norms and guidelines when dealing with fake news.

At the conference, the ASEAN Ministers also endorsed
the ASEAN Communication Master Plan for 2018–2025 (ACMP-II) which would be
surfaced to the ASEAN Community Council for adoption. Under the overarching
theme of “ASEAN: A Community of Opportunities for All”, the ACMP-II will
support ASEAN’s efforts in implementing all three ASEAN Community Blueprints to
communicate the character of ASEAN as “people-oriented and people-centred”.

The Ministers agreed to convene the 15th AMRI and its Related Meetings with Dialogue Partners in Thailand in 2020.

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