Fake news law: Correction notice issued to States Times Review

PHOTO: POFMA Office

SINGAPORE —  A correction direction has been issued against sociopolitical website States Times Review over a Facebook post that falsely claimed several individuals have been arrested over a recent post about Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

In a statement on Thursday (28 November), the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations (POFMA) Office said that Shanmugam has instructed the agency to issue a correction notice to Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, who runs the States Times Review Facebook page.

The direction requires Tan – who is based in Sydney – to carry in full, the correction notice at the top of his Facebook post, which was published on 23 November. The POFMA Office said that Tan’s post contains “false statements of fact” about the aftermath of a Facebook post by a spoof National University of Singapore (NUS) page.

Last Friday, Shanmugam blasted the NUSSU-NUS Students United page, which he said misquoted him on religion and politics. The page also alluded to People’s Action Party member Rachel Ong, who is a Christian.

The subsequent STR post then claimed that the “whistleblower who exposed the PAP candidate’s Christian affiliations has since been arrested, and fac[es] Police charges for 'fabricating fake news'". It further claimed that the owner of the page has been arrested on Shanmugam’s orders.

“These claims are false and baseless. No one has been arrested or charged arising from the NSU post,” said the Office. And while the the NUSSU-NUS Students page has been taken down, it was done of Facebook’s own accord, and not as a result of a government request.

The POFMA Office added that STR has also made “scurrilous accusations” against the Elections Department, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the election process in Singapore.

“Parliamentary elections in Singapore are governed by the Parliamentary Elections Act. The law provides for a clear and transparent framework which ensures the integrity of the elections,” it said.

In response, Tan said a post on the STR Facebook page, “We have not received any request from the Australian Federal Police to take down any article. States Times Review and it’s editor, who is now a citizen of Australia, will not comply with any order from a foreign government like North Korea or Singapore.”

It is the second time that the controversial fake news law, which empowers ministers to issue corrections and takedown notices, has been invoked. On Monday, a correction notice was issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer.

This is not STR’s first brush with the law. Last November, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) filed a police report against the anonymous author of an STR article titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target”.

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