SINGAPORE — Social media platform TikTok is facing a civil lawsuit from Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam due to its failure to assist him in identifying three users allegedly responsible for uploading videos containing false allegations about him.
Today Online reported on Tuesday (28 November) that it obtained copies of three affidavits - signed statements typically used as evidence in legal proceedings - filed by Shanmugam's lawyers from WongPartnership.
These affidavits detailed the allegations, which the minister has repeatedly dismissed as "false and baseless". They were filed in support of his application for court orders mandating TikTok to produce documents and information to identify the users involved.
According to the affidavits, TikTok declined to provide Shanmugam with the basic personal information of the three users without a court order.
In response to queries from Today Online, TikTok's lawyers at Rajah & Tann said they could not provide any comment on the matter.
What were the false statements made?
On 13 August, a TikTok user named "@trusted.selller" allegedly posted a video comprising two images alongside the caption "GIVE HIM A DEFAMATION SUIT SISTER #MINISTER #SG #VIRAL #EXWIFE".
One image seemed to display a Facebook page linked to the search term "k shanmugam ex wife," showcasing a picture of Shanmugam and his former spouse. The other screenshot contained allegations against Shanmugam attributed to a "Former Mrs K. Shanmugam."
Two days later, on 15 August, another TikTok user under the username "@tharakhussin" purportedly shared a video with an image of a Facebook post featuring an article from celebcritics.com containing false and defamatory statements about Shanmugam.
Today Online reported that while the video did not directly link to the article, it displayed the full headline, specifically highlighting Shanmugam's alleged extramarital affair with West Coast GRC Member of Parliament Foo Mee Har.
Following these actions, Shanmugam initiated separate legal actions against celebcritics.com for the article. On 15 September, the State Courts ruled that the article contained false statements about Shanmugam, leading to an order for the website to cease publication.
In Shanmugam's affidavit, he mentioned a third TikTok user named "@thaddeusthomas81," who allegedly posted a video on 17 August related to the minister. The video, titled "Clarifications and a look at who is the wife and alleged mistress," included an image of Foo with the words "alleged affair with MP Foo Mee Har" among others.
Shanmugam, through affidavits, denied these allegations and took to Facebook to clarify that statements attributed to his former wife were fabricated by an imposter. He also explicitly denied the allegations of an affair with Foo.
TikTok refuses to disclose user identities without court order
Upon discovering these videos, Shanmugam engaged lawyers to request TikTok to disable access to the content and provide the users' basic subscriber information, according to Today Online. However, TikTok responded via email, stating their inability to disclose the information without a court order or legal obligation.
Despite TikTok's lack of assistance, Shanmugam's legal representatives managed to reach out to two of the TikTok users through Facebook, requesting them to remove the videos and issue a written apology. However, these attempts yielded no response.
Shanmugam highlighted in his affidavits that due to his inability to determine the identities or addresses of the three TikTok users, he has been unable to initiate legal actions directly against them. He emphasised that obtaining the necessary documents and information from TikTok would facilitate the identification of these users. He also argued that requesting TikTok to provide this information is reasonable and proportionate.
Moreover, Shanmugam pointed out that by using TikTok, users are bound by an agreement not to post content deliberately intended to provoke, harass, harm, distress, embarrass or upset individuals. The three users allegedly breached this agreement by uploading the videos.
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