Singapore’s fake news law to take effect on Wednesday

·Editorial Team

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s fake news law will come into effect on Wednesday (2 October), about five months after it was passed in Parliament.

The announcement was made in a notice in the Government Gazette on Tuesday, along with others relating to subsidiary legislation under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The POFMA bill was passed on 8 May, following public hearings by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods last year.

The Singapore government has said that the new law will help society guard against malicious actors who knowingly spread harmful falsehoods and act against public interest. It has stressed that the law targets falsehoods, not opinions and criticisms, nor satire or parody.

The law defines that a statement is false if it is false or misleading, whether wholly or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.

Perpetrators face fines of between $30,000 and $1 million, and/or up to 10 years’ jail.

Concerns about the law

The law had triggered widespread concerns inside and outside the House including on the definition of what constitutes a falsehood, the powers to be given to individual ministers to deal with falsehoods, and the potentially adverse impact it would have on free speech.

One criticism by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) was that the initial decision-making process on online falsehoods should not reside with the government, but should be vested with the courts.

A total of 72 parliamentarians voted for the Bill while all nine Workers’ Party (WP) MPs and non-constituency MPs voted against the Bill and three nominated MPs - Anthea Ong, Irene Quay and Associate Professor Walter Theseira - abstained.

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