SINGAPORE — Minister for Law K Shanmugam has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office to issue a correction direction to the National Times Singapore (NTS) Facebook page.
In a media release on Wednesday (27 May), the POFMA office said that NTS made multiple false statements on the scope and application of POFMA in a post published on 15 May.
NTS is run by Australia-based Alex Tan, who has already been issued six previous correction directions by the POFMA office on his previous Facebook pages, the States Times Review and Singapore States Times.
Facebook will also be served a targeted correction direction for it to communicate a correction notice by means of its service to all users in Singapore.
Details of falsehoods by NTS
NTS had published a post on 15 May claiming the following:
“Every criticism has been outlawed by the Singapore government through its new POFMA legislation, where the politicians in power get to decide what is truth,” it wrote.
It also claimed that the Minister for Law had issued a POFMA direction to ban a video.
According to the POFMA office, the above statements are false for the following reasons:
It is false that “politicians in power get to decide what is truth” under POFMA. The law applies only to factual statements that are false. It does not apply to opinions. If there is a dispute as to whether the statement is false, or whether it is a statement of fact, the dispute can be determined by the courts.
It is therefore also untrue to say that POFMA outlaws every criticism of the Government. Before and after POFMA came into force, the Government has been regularly criticised on various matters. These criticisms have not been subject to POFMA.
The Minister for Law has not issued a POFMA direction to ban any video. The video subject to an earlier POFMA direction remains accessible to the public.
Clear pattern of deliberately spreading falsehoods: POFMA office
The POFMA office said that, as Tan has repeated falsehoods that were subject to an earlier POFMA direction, he must be aware that the statements are false and tend to undermine public interest.
“Yet, he continues to publish falsehoods that distort the public’s understanding of the law and how it has been implemented,” it said in the media release.
“This demonstrates a clear pattern of deliberately spreading falsehoods which affect the public interest.. Mr Tan remains recalcitrant, and continues to purvey falsehoods, on his latest page.”
The office said that the majority of Tan’s falsehoods relate to the COVID-19 situation, such as suggesting that Singapore had run out of face masks; that there was an underreporting of COVID-19 cases here by the government; that there were numerous infections because schools were not closed earlier; and that foreign workers were not getting paid during quarantine.
Tan had also made “serious and baseless allegations” about Singapore’s judiciary being biased. The allegations have been brought to the attention of the Attorney-General’s Chambers for assessment on whether the allegations are in contempt of court.
Tan had also claimed that the Minister for Law faces criminal charges in Malaysia, and that a Malaysian court has made an order against the minister. These are untrue, said the POFMA office.
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