Singapore Fake News Law: POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)


POFMA no. 25: 5 July 2020

FACTUALLY: Clarification regarding falsehood published by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), The Online Citizen Asia (TOC), CNA and New Naratif on MOM’s advisory on testing of migrant workers
False statements made by Dr Paul Anantharajah Tambyah in a NUSS forum video, a TOC Facebook post and videos, a Channel NewsAsia (CNA) online article, and a New Naratif audio recording on MOM’s advisory on testing of migrant workers.


POFMA issues correction directions to NUSS, CNA, TOC and New Naratif over Tambyah's statements on COVID-19 testing of migrant workers
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 6 Jul 2020

Five correction directions have been issued to the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), Channel News Asia (CNA), The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) and New Naratif, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a joint statement yesterday.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office was directed to issue these correction directions by the alternate authority for the Minister for Manpower.

It is the first time that a mainstream media outlet has been issued a correction direction by the POFMA Office.



The directions were issued for the following:

• A video titled "NUSS Pre-General Election Forum 2020", published by NUSS on July 3 on YouTube.

• A Facebook post and video titled "Dr Paul Tambyah reveals MOM's role in outbreak of COVID-19 within dormitories", published by TOC on July 4.

• A video titled "TOC GE2020 Livestream - Afternoon session 2 July 2020", published by TOC on July 2.

• An online article titled "GE2020: Focus on public health could have been lost in March amid talk of early election, suggests SDP's Paul Tambyah", published by CNA on July 4.

• An audio recording titled "An Interview with Dr Paul Tambyah", published by New Naratif on July 5.

These materials contained statements by Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah which are false, MOH and MOM said in their joint press statement.

The four organisations will be required to each carry a correction notice stating that the online content contains false statement of facts.



At issue were statements by Professor Tambyah that MOM's e-mail advisory to employers on the testing of migrant workers was made without the advice of public health medical professionals and that this advisory warned that employers would lose their work pass privileges if they brought their workers for COVID-19 testing.

MOM was also said to have actively discouraged the testing of workers.

The statements were false, the ministries' joint statement said.

Details of the corrections and clarifications regarding the statements can be found here.









POFMA no. 24: 4 July 2020

FACTUALLY: Correction and clarifications regarding falsehoods on population target and HDB CEO’s remarks on living density
This is a continuation of falsehoods alleging that the Government has a population target of 10 million, which the Government has clarified.


Facebook pages of Peoples Voice and SDP among those issued POFMA directions
By Goh Yan Han, The Sunday Times, 5 Jul 2020

The Facebook pages of two political parties contesting the general election have received correction directions under Singapore's fake news law, along with two other Facebook pages and a website.

The pages belong to Peoples Voice and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), as well as The Online Citizen Asia's website and Facebook page, and the "Sin Rak Sin Party" Facebook page.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office issued the correction notice over claims that Dr Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive of the Housing Development Board, had suggested at the IPS-Nathan Lectures in 2018 that Singapore's population would increase to 10 million by 2030.

Dr Cheong did not make such a statement, the POFMA Office said yesterday. The direction was issued on the instruction of the alternate authority for the Minister for National Development.



A targeted correction direction has also been issued to Facebook, which will have to display a correction notice to all users in Singapore who access posts with pictures carrying the same falsehoods on the social media platform.

The POFMA Office said the Government has clarified Singapore's population plans on many occasions, including in Parliament in March 2018, two articles on the government-run Factually website, and in a July 1 media statement. It said that despite the latest clarification, the falsehood continues to be repeated.

It added that the publication of such falsehoods damages the public interest by undermining legitimate and honest discussion, and that appropriate action may be taken against any further publication of such falsehoods.



A day earlier, the "Sin Rak Sin Party" Facebook page and three other Facebook users - Ryann Smith, Jafri Basron and Denise Fletcher - were also issued POFMA correction directions. They had posted screenshots of, or linked to, an article which contained a false statement that the Urban Redevelopment Authority had released a "plan to build underground infrastructure ready for 10 million population". The article which contained the false statement was first published by The Online Citizen on April 4 last year.

Yesterday, the POFMA Office also issued a targeted correction direction to Facebook, after user Jafri Basron did not comply with the correction direction issued to him the day before.

The Peoples Voice Facebook page had also received a correction direction from the POFMA Office last Thursday over a video containing a false statement about government spending on foreign students. The YouTube channel of party leader Lim Tean also received a correction direction.













POFMA no. 23: 3 July 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding posts of falsehoods from an article by The Online Citizen
Falsehoods from TOC article titled ‘URA releases plan to build underground infrastructure ready for a 10 million population’ being posted online


POFMA correction direction issued to Facebook page, 3 users
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2020

A correction direction by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office has been issued to three Facebook users and the "Sin Rak Sin Party" Facebook page.

The users - Ryann Smith, Jafri Basron and Denise Fletcher - and the "Sin Rak Sin Party" Facebook page had posted screenshots of, or linked to, an article which contained a false statement that the Urban Redevelopment Authority had released a "plan to build underground infrastructure ready for 10 million population", the POFMA office said in a statement yesterday.

The article which contains the false statement was first published by The Online Citizen on April 4 last year.

The correction direction was issued on the instruction of the alternate authority for the Minister charged with the Responsibility for the Portfolio of the Prime Minister insofar as it relates to the National Population and Talent Division.



In its statement, the POFMA Office said the Government has clarified Singapore's population plans on multiple occasions, including in Parliament in March 2018, two Factually articles in March and July this year, and in a media statement issued on Wednesday. It said on Wednesday that the publication of such falsehoods damages the public interest by undermining legitimate and honest discussion, and that appropriate action may be taken against any further publication of such falsehoods. But the falsehood continues to be repeated despite the clarification, the POFMA Office said.







POFMA no. 22: 2 July 2020

FACTUALLY: Correction and clarifications regarding a falsehood and misleading statement in Peoples Voice Political Party’s Facebook Video on 1 July 2020


POFMA correction directions issued to Peoples Voice party's Facebook page and Lim Tean's YouTube channel
By Dominic Low and Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2020

A correction direction was issued on Thursday (July 2) by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to the Facebook page of the Peoples Voice (PV) party over a video containing a false statement about government spending on foreign students.

The POFMA Office also issued another correction direction to the YouTube channel Tean Lim of the party's leader, Mr Lim Tean, where the video was also posted.



Mr Lim and PV are respectively the first candidate and political party contesting this year's elections to receive a POFMA correction direction.

The directions were issued on the instruction of the alternate authority for the Minister for Education.

In the video, Mr Lim said: "We spend a quarter of a billion dollars providing free education for foreigners every year."

The Government said on its fact-checking website, Factually: "This is false and misleading. The Ministry of Education (MOE) does not spend a quarter of a billion dollars to provide free education for foreigners every year.

"While MOE (Education Ministry) spends about $238 million on foreign students a year as stated in a parliamentary reply on 5 August 2019, the significant majority of these students are still required to pay fees higher than those of local students and/or fulfil a bond obligation after graduation." 



This is the second time to date that correction directions were issued by an alternate authority for a minister.

The first was on Monday, when correction directions were issued over false statements about cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore and Malaysia which appeared on two Facebook pages.

When asked about the correction direction on Thursday night, Mr Lim said: "I feel that this is another intimidation tactic... to try to intimidate the opposition, especially during this important period of elections."

He added that the issue is a "distraction".

As of Thursday night, a correction notice on the false statement had been posted in the description of the video on both the Facebook page and the YouTube channel.





POFMA no. 21: 29 June 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehood on cross-border travel arrangements between Singapore and Malaysia
False statement made by State News Singapore Facebook page


State News Singapore, Alex Tan issued correction directions over Facebook post about Singapore-Malaysia cross-border travel
By Lena Loke, TODAY, 29 Jun 2020

The alternate authority for the Minister for Foreign Affairs has ordered a correction direction each to be issued to State News Singapore and its owner Alex Tan’s Facebook pages for making false statements about cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia.

In a statement on Monday (June 29), the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office said that State News Singapore had made the false statements in a Facebook post published on June 27.



In the post, State News Singapore wrote: “Despite Lee Hsien Loong personally calling Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin requesting Malaysia to open up daily commute, the Malaysian authorities refused to accede to his request.”

“This false statement of fact was shared by Mr Tan’s Facebook page,” the POFMA office added.

Factually, a government fact-checking website, debunked this statement in an article.

We wish to clarify that the telephone call between the two Prime Ministers was initiated at the request of Prime Minister Muhyiddin. As Prime Minister Muhyiddin has publicly stated, he proposed that the Singapore Government consider a daily cross-border commuting arrangement,” it wrote.

“The Singapore Government is committed to discussing the gradual and phased resumption of cross-border travel with Malaysia, subject to mutually agreed public health protocols, to preserve the public health and safety of citizens of both countries.”

The website added that both countries are working on a “periodic commuting arrangement” and “reciprocal green lane”.

Discussions on other proposals are also underway to gradually facilitate more cross-border movement of people, while taking into account the medical resources available in both countries.

A targeted correction direction has also been issued to Facebook, requiring the social network to display the correction notice on the State News Singapore post, the POFMA office said.



This is the first POFMA order issued under an alternate authority.

After the Writ of Election was issued on June 23, Parliament was dissolved and ministers were no longer able to issue orders under POFMA.

In their place, senior civil servants were appointed to act as alternate authorities. These are the permanent secretaries of all 16 ministries and a few portfolios under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who are able to exercise the powers of ministers during the election.

Earlier in May, Singapore States Times, a now-defunct page run by Mr Tan, was issued two correction directions for a post about COVID-19 cases in schools.





POFMA encourages democracy, does not disadvantage opposition: Shanmugam on upcoming General Election 2020
By Aqil Haziq Mahmud, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Jun 2020

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) does not disadvantage the opposition but instead "encourages greater democracy", said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking to host Diana Ser for the programme In Conversation on Sunday (Jun 21) and was asked about POFMA and the upcoming General Election.

The much-debated Bill was passed in May last year and came into force on Oct 2, making the upcoming General Election the first in which POFMA will be in place. Ms Ser had asked for Mr Shanmugam's response to critics who say that POFMA disadvantages the opposition.

“You can be as hard as you like on the Government policies, on the Government in your viewpoints. You can offer counter policies. POFMA cannot apply to any of that,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“It’s only when you say that ... specific facts are not true or you put out lies, then you’re required to carry a health warning. I don’t see that as an issue.”



POFMA correction directions require recipients to put up a notice alongside the claim, stating that what has been said is untrue. The original message and the claims are not required to be removed, allowing readers to compare both the original statements and the correction notice.

“The POFMA orders require you to put up a health warning that what you have said is untrue. So it doesn’t disadvantage you,” said Mr Shanmugam, noting that the warning will have a link to the facts. “People read what you have written. People read what the Government says. And they decide for themselves.”

Mr Shanmugam said this “actually encourages greater democracy” because it encourages more information.

“You can argue censorship only if your article is taken down,” said Mr Shanmugam. “But your article is there. So what are you embarrassed about?”

Authorities can issue POFMA take-down orders in extreme cases, although none have been issued so far. Most of the POFMA orders issued have been correction directions.

People also have the right to challenge POFMA orders in court, said Mr Shanmugam, adding that “we need to encourage people to argue based on policies, on facts”.

Among members of opposition parties, Brad Bowyer from the Progress Singapore Party was directed to correct a Facebook post in November last year, in the first use of the law in Singapore.

Lim Tean from People’s Voice has also been issued POFMA orders, while the Singapore Democratic Party had its appeal against a POFMA order dismissed in court.

Citing Mr Bowyer’s case, Mr Shanmugam said that some people may be embarrassed they have to put up a correction notice, and that such people “don’t like being exposed”.

“They want to be able to say untrue things, make people angry, without being pointed out,” he said. “So if that is wrong, then these people should ask themselves, why do they need to deal in lies.”

When asked about potential voter backlash due to their perception of POFMA, Mr Shanmugam said he believes that the majority of people will understand the need for the law.

"There are some who genuinely don’t know enough and are therefore concerned, and that’s a small minority. And there are some who know full well, but are cynical and cynically trying to put out further lies about POFMA," said Mr Shanmugam.

“(But) by and large, the voters know that now that POFMA has been in operation for a while and the orders have been made, they have seen how they operate. They see that the original articles are up there,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam said that POFMA has been “reasonably effective” in curbing falsehoods about the COVID-19 outbreak, highlighting that half of POFMA orders issued involve coronavirus disinformation. A few dealt with rumours of closures, community cases and deaths related to COVID-19.

Mr Shanmugam said POFMA has helped people educate the public and warn off would-be perpetrators of fake news.

“We cannot rely on the goodwill of the Internet platforms anymore,” he added. “Governments have to take action.”



COVID-19 STRESSES

Moving on to how the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed fault lines in society, Mr Shanmugam said the number of online race-related attacks in April was the highest in many years.

Mr Shanmugam described these attacks as “verbal spats” on the Internet between the major ethnic groups of Chinese, Malays and Indians. He did not provide exact figures.

“The stress of the (COVID-19) situation, and the economic stress, physical stress, the pressure, in every society, has created serious issues,” said Mr Shanmugam, in response to a question on whether COVID-19 had brought out the ugly side of Singaporeans.

He also said that every country has an ugly side, although only a minority take it “to extremes”.

In Singapore, he noted, people started posting anti-Chinese sentiments after COVID-19 broke out in China. When migrant workers started getting infected in large numbers in Singapore, the negative sentiment turned towards Indians.

“What are the fault lines in every society? Race, religion, anything that can differentiate one group from another group. And here, race, religion incidents shot up in April, and the anti-foreigner sentiment too,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“We’ve got to deal with it and apply the law equally whether you’re white, brown, yellow, whatever,” he added. “You are whatever colour, whatever nationality, whether Singaporean, non-Singaporean, the law is the same.”



ONLINE VIGILANTES

Racist or xenophobic comments have also been found on online posts showing alleged breaches of COVID-19 rules, and Mr Shanmugam said online vigilantes who overdo it can “seriously damage” people.

He cited the case of the woman who was caught on video without a face mask several times and proclaiming “I am a sovereign” in Shunfu. Vigilantes had wrongly identified the head of a tech company as the perpetrator.

“Sometimes it’s like a mob attacking you anonymously online, putting up your pictures and saying all sorts of nasty things about you,” he said. “Sometimes they even get the wrong person. So that can destroy careers, it can ruin mental health, it can seriously damage people.”

Mr Shanmugam said people who report potential breaches directly to the authorities are doing the right thing, as professionals will conduct a proper investigation. Those found to be innocent will be let off, he said, while those who broke the law will be dealt with and be a lesson to others.

LAWS IN PLACE

Nevertheless, Mr Shanmugam said anti-harassment laws prevent vigilantes from going overboard, adding that authorities have to enforce those laws to ensure people remain responsible. “You don’t take the law into your own hands,” he stated.

Likewise, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore has a “very tough framework” of laws that prevent people from attacking or speaking bad about another race or religion.

“I completely disagree with some people who in the name of, say, freedom of speech will say, ‘Oh, we should be allowed to say whatever we like about the Chinese, Malays and Indians, and allow different ways of approaching this’,” he added.

“No, the way it works out in reality is hate speech increases and anger increases, and that then fuels racism. So we have a very strict framework of laws, and our people have for many years accepted it.”





POFMA no. 20: 27 May 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding Facebook post by National Times Singapore (“NTS”)
False and misleading statements by Mr Alex Tan


POFMA office orders National Times Singapore, run by Alex Tan, to correct misleading Facebook post
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 28 May 2020

The National Times Singapore Facebook page has been asked to put up corrections to a post in which multiple false and misleading statements were made about the scope and application of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam instructed the POFMA Office yesterday to issue a correction direction to the Facebook page, run by Mr Alex Tan, and a targeted correction direction issued to Facebook.

The Ministry of Law said in a separate statement yesterday that this was the seventh occasion in which correction directions under POFMA have been issued against a Facebook page run by Mr Tan, "who has repeatedly and deliberately conveyed falsehoods affecting the public interest".



The POFMA directives would require the Facebook page to publish a correction notice. Facebook would also be required to communicate the correction notice to all users in Singapore who access the falsehood through its platform.

On May 15, the National Times Singapore Facebook page published a post claiming, among other things, that "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".

However, this is false, said the Government on its fact-checking website, Factually. POFMA applies only to factual statements that are false and does not apply to opinions, it added, noting that disputes on whether a statement is false 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 Facebook post also stated that Mr Shanmugam had issued a POFMA direction to ban an online video in which historian Thum Ping Tjin asserted that Singapore's fake news law renders all criticism of the Government illegal.

The Government said the minister has not issued a POFMA direction to ban the video, which was subject to an earlier direction, and that it remains accessible to the public.

In the same Facebook post, Mr Tan, who lives in Australia, alleges that Singapore's judiciary is biased. He also claims that Mr Shanmugam faces criminal charges in Malaysia.

These are untrue, said the Government, adding that Mr Tan has previously been issued POFMA correction directions in relation to falsehoods conveyed on six separate occasions on his previous Facebook pages, the States Times Review and Singapore States Times. Most of the earlier falsehoods related to the COVID-19 situation, including claims that Singapore had run out of face masks.

Mr Tan was bound to comply with these correction directions, but has refused to comply, it added.














Facebook page run by Alex Tan barred from receiving financial benefit under POFMA
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 30 May 2020

The National Times Singapore Facebook page has been barred from receiving any financial benefit after it published a post with multiple false statements, at least three of which were the subject of a correction direction under Singapore's laws against fake news.

The page, run by Mr Alex Tan, was designated a Declared Online Location (DOL) by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Facebook page was ordered to put up corrections to a post containing multiple false and misleading statements about the scope and application of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). Mr Tan did not comply.



On Thursday, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said the page would be required to carry a notice that it has been declared a DOL. With the notice, visitors to the page will be warned about its history of communicating falsehoods.

The ministry added: "The declaration will also make it an offence for Mr Tan to derive benefit from operating the National Times Singapore Facebook page, and will prohibit the provision of financial support to it for the purposes of supporting, helping or promoting the communication of falsehoods."

On May 15, the National Times Singapore Facebook page published a post claiming that "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".

In the same post, Mr Tan, who lives in Australia, alleged that Singapore's judiciary was biased. He also claimed that Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam faced criminal charges in Malaysia.

Mr Shanmugam instructed the POFMA Office on Wednesday to issue a correction direction to the page and a targeted correction direction to Facebook.



In recent months, Mr Tan has created and operated Facebook pages "which sought to derive monetary benefits from falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society", said MCI. "These pages have been declared DOLs."

Mr Tan was issued POFMA correction directions in relation to falsehoods conveyed on six separate occasions on his previous Facebook pages, the States Times Review and Singapore States Times.

Most of the earlier falsehoods related to the COVID-19 situation, including claims that Singapore had run out of face masks.

MCI said: "So far, neither these pages nor Mr Tan have complied with any of the requirements of the POFMA directions and declarations that they have been served with."





POFMA no. 19: 13 May 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods and misleading statements by Mr Thum Ping Tjin
False and misleading statements made in a YouTube video by Mr Thum Ping Tjin


Correction direction issued to New Naratif and Thum Ping Tjin over video about POFMA
Channel NewsAsia, 13 May 2020

Law Minister K Shanmugam has instructed a correction order be issued to New Naratif and Mr Thum Ping Tjin over a YouTube video about statements made on the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The YouTube video, published last Friday, contains "several false and misleading statements", said the POFMA Office on Wednesday (May 13).

"Among other inaccurate claims, the video contained false statements about the scope of POFMA, when and how it can be used, and the role of the courts," said the office.

This is the first time a correction direction has been issued over a YouTube video under POFMA.

Under the correction directions, a correction notice must be placed alongside the video, said the Ministry of Law.

"FALSE AND MISLEADING STATEMENTS"

The Government website Factually listed the following as "false and misleading statements" in the YouTube video published by Mr Thum on May 8:

- Under POFMA, "every statement can be considered false in some way"

- POFMA makes all criticism of the Government illegal

- There is no recourse in law for the court to overturn a direction if it is an abuse of power under POFMA

- POMFA "means that the truth will be whatever the party says it is"



Factually said POFMA applies only to factual statements that are false and that it does not apply to opinions, including criticisms.

"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 said.

Factually added the whole statement will not be considered false just because "one bit" of it is false and that the Courts have developed criteria for assessing falsehoods.

"It is untrue to say that 'every statement can be considered false in some way' and be subject to POFMA".

Factually said it is "untrue (and absurd)" to say POFMA makes all criticisms of the Government illegal, as there had been previous cases of the Government being criticised and these have not been subjected to POFMA.

The Courts also have judicial oversight of the exercise of powers under POFMA.

"It is therefore untrue to say that there can be no recourse in law, when there has been abuse of POFMA powers."



Factually said it is also false for Mr Thum to assert that POFMA "means that the truth will be whatever the party says it is".

The Government also took issue with Mr Thum's claims about POFMA being used against the "interpretation of statistical data" by the Singapore Democratic Party.

"The issue was not about interpretation of statistics. The SDP had made a direct, false statement. SDP challenged the POFMA directions against it, and the High Court held that there was no basis for the directions to be set aside, because SDP had made false statements of fact," Factually said.



Contrary to Mr Thum's claims, Factually said people are free to criticise and disagree with the Government.

It said POFMA has been used to deal specifically with falsehoods and in a targeted manner.

Factually added that the original article that has been issued a correction direction under POFMA remains completely accessible.

"Readers can read for themselves both the primary piece and the correction, and make up their own minds.

"Recipients of POFMA directions who put up the Correction Notice can continue to put forward their point of view on the issue, and their original articles also remain available for anyone to read," said Factually.

In the 18 POFMA cases so far, 11 were COVID-19 related falsehoods. In seven of the cases, correction directions were issued within 24 hours, sometimes in a matter of hours.

Mr Thum had also said that the court process takes a long time.

To this, the Government said POFMA's rules allow for a process that normally takes months to be cut to just six working days. It also highlighted the lower court fees for individuals.

The Government said the duration of the hearing and the Courts' decisions are matters for the Courts. The Parliament and the Executive cannot intervene in those.

Factually also said Mr Thum misleadingly used a video clip of an interview with Law Minister K Shanmugam to suggest that POFMA can be abused by a future government, and that the first part to the minister's answer had been omitted.

The Government also did not try to apply the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act retroactively in Mr Li Shengwu's case, Factually said, contrary to what Mr Thum had said.

"The substantive law applicable to the case was common law contempt, and not the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act," it said.

Factually added that Mr Thum's claims about previous PAP governments spreading information to silence critics are his opinions, and not subjected to a POFMA direction.

"Similar claims have been refuted elsewhere."

Public clarifications on POFMA have also been put out by the Government, said Factually. However, Mr Thum had repeated falsehoods and misleading statements similar to those in this case on multiple occasions.

"He is clearly aware of what the true scope of POFMA is: when a viewer asked whether his criticisms of the government may be false, he shrugged off the suggestion ... meaning, his opinions cannot be the subject of POFMA.

"Thus his statements that POFMA can be used in respect of all statements, are entirely cynical, and he obviously knows that they are untrue," it said.

Under the correction directions issued to Mr Thum and New Naratif, the video published on May 8 can remain accessible to the public, Factually said.

"That gives the lie to any suggestion of censorship. It will allow viewers to view his video, and this statement, and reach their own conclusions."





Historian Thum Ping Tjin complies with POFMA order but says he will challenge it
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 15 May 2020

Historian Thum Ping Tjin has put up a correction notice on his Facebook page alongside his online video on Singapore's fake news laws, complying with correction directions he received on Wednesday, but only after receiving a warning.

While he had put up a notice on the New Naratif website he founded, he had not done so on his Facebook page by the deadline set by the POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) Office until he received a warning from the office.

Yesterday, he said he intends to challenge the directive. He also reiterated his criticisms of POFMA, saying that with the extremely broad definitions of falsehoods and public interest in the legislation, any criticism of the Government could fall foul of the law.

"While the Government assures us that criticism is acceptable in Singapore, with regret, we do not believe it," he added at the end of the correction notice he put up in a Facebook post and on the New Naratif website linking to the video.

"In our opinion, POFMA correction directions like the one we received are an attempt to intimidate independent media and an abuse of the law, designed to strike fear into the hearts of the Government's critics and citizenry."

He called for POFMA to be revised in consultation with the public and also suggested that Law Minister K. Shanmugam should have a debate with New Naratif "over the impact of the POFMA law on freedom of expression in Singapore".

Dr Thum, who founded New Naratif and is its managing director, had been asked on Wednesday to put up corrections to a video from the series "The Show with PJ Thum".

In the video, he asserted, among other things, that POFMA renders all criticisms of the Government illegal.



The Government refuted this, and also his claims that a statement is automatically considered false when part of it is false; that there is no recourse in law when the Government abuses its powers under POFMA; and that ministers have the last word on the truth. Saying the claims were false and misleading, the Government added that "contrary to what Mr Thum suggests, people are free to criticise and disagree with the Government".

Yesterday, Dr Thum said that while he disagreed with the correction directions, he had put up the correction notice as failure to comply is an offence under the law.

In his Facebook post, he also said that he had received a "belated request from the POFMA Office" to put up the correction notice on Facebook.

Disputing this, the Ministry of Law said that Dr Thum had failed to comply within 24 hours of receiving the POFMA direction, which was sent on Wednesday at around 3pm, and had thus received a warning at 4.06pm yesterday, giving him a further opportunity to comply.

"The warning was sent, on the same e-mail chain that contained the previous day's direction. Thus Mr Thum cannot possibly have genuinely thought that the request was belated," the ministry said. The ministry noted that Dr Thum had put up the correction notice on Facebook at 4.50pm yesterday after receiving the warning.

It added: "At 8.22pm (yesterday), POFMA Office sent Mr Thum a further e-mail, pointing out that his allegation, that the Government had made a 'belated request' for correction, was untrue and referring to the correspondence, which showed it to be untrue. Mr Thum has since removed this allegation from his Facebook post, without any explanation."





Singapore States Times and Alex Tan's Facebook pages named Declared Online Locations under POFMA
By Melissa Heng, The Straits Times, 8 May 2020

The Facebook pages of the Singapore States Times (SST) and its owner Alex Tan Zhi Xiang have been designated as Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) from yesterday.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a statement on Wednesday that both pages have "repeatedly communicated numerous falsehoods, of which at least three on each page were the subject of POFMA directions from November 2019 to date".

Under POFMA, online sites which receive three correction directions for publishing falsehoods on various issues within six months can be declared a DOL.



"In recent months, both Facebook pages have communicated falsehoods regarding the COVID-19 virus situation in Singapore," said the ministry. It added that both pages are also linked to other websites operated by Mr Tan which derive monetary benefits from publishing "falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society".

MCI said both SST and Mr Tan have refused to comply with any of the POFMA directions issued to them.

The ministry said the pages will have to carry a notice stating that they have been designated DOLs and warning people that it has a history of communicating falsehoods, among other things.

Mr Tan can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, if he does not comply.

It is also an offence for him to profit from the page, or for anyone to provide financial support to the page for the purpose of communicating falsehoods. They can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, for doing so.



An SST Facebook post on Wednesday on infections among staff at the community care facility (CCF) at Singapore Expo contained a number of errors, said the Ministry of Defence yesterday. "There has been no reported case of infections among staff under the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) deployed to take care of COVID-19 patients at the Expo."

MINDEF added that the 20-year-old male Singaporean citizen cited by the post works under a different healthcare group and is not a full-time national serviceman as claimed by the post, but a trained nurse from a private agency.



"The Singapore States Times also claimed that none of the national servicemen deployed by the SAF at the CCF had any experience in the hospitals. This is again wrong. Some of them are doctors and medics with prior hospital experience," said MINDEF.

"The SAF recognises the inherent risk to all its staff deployed in the CCF to care for recovering COVID-19 patients. Careful attention had been paid to the training and preparation of all staff to institute and maintain protocols to protect themselves against infection."

In February, Mr Tan's States Times Review Facebook page was also named a DOL.










POFMA no. 18: 5 May 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding a falsehood published by Singapore States Times on COVID-19 cases in schools
False statement made in a Facebook post by Singapore States Times


Singapore States Times issued correction direction over post alleging COVID-19 transmission in schools
Channel NewsAsia, 6 May 2020

Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung has instructed that a correction direction be issued to Singapore States Times and its owner Mr Alex Tan over an online post alleging COVID-19 transmission in schools.

The Facebook post, published on Monday by Singapore States Times on Monday (May 4) and shared by Mr Tan on the same day, contains "a false statement of fact", said the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office on Tuesday.



The post said that the Education Minister "is responsible for numerous infections in schools after he refused to close down the schools", said Government website Factually.

It also said that "at least 50 students and teachers had become infected with COVID-19 by 3 April 2020 as a result of transmission in schools, which is false", said Factually.

Singapore announced stricter measures on Apr 3 to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of most non-essential workplaces and the implementation of full home-based learning for schools.

As of Apr 3, 69 students and staff in Ministry of Education (MOE) schools, including the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), were reported to have been infected with COVID-19, said Factually.

However, all but three unlinked cases were due to transmission via overseas travel, within households, social settings and a non-school workplace, said Factually.

“In short, none of the 69 infections were traced back to MOE schools, including the IHLs,” said Factually.



Schools were suspended for full home-based learning on Apr 8.

Before that, however, the authorities had already taken precautionary measures such as new hygiene and cleaning routines for students, fixed seating and assigned play areas, suspension of co-curricular activities, as well as placing unwell students with a travel history, or who lived with family members who had a travel history, on a leave of absence, said Factually.

“If MOE had simply closed schools early, say from Feb 2020, we would have disrupted lives significantly, and the impact on students from vulnerable backgrounds would have been immense. 

“Instead, we have kept schools open as long as possible, while keeping our students safe,” it said.



The POFMA Office said the Education Minister had also ordered that a targeted correction direction be issued to Facebook, which requires the social media platform to communicate a correction notice to all Singapore users in Singapore who access the falsehood through its service.

In April, the Singapore States Times was issued a correction direction over a post about MOH’s reporting of COVID-19 cases. It was also issued another direction earlier that month over a post claiming that quarantined foreign workers would not be paid their salaries.





POFMA no. 17: 19 Apr 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections Regarding Falsehoods on the Annual Salary of Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd's Executive Director and CEO Ms Ho Ching and Additional Clarifications
False statements made on Facebook, HardwareZone Forum and The Online Citizen


Four POFMA corrections issued over claims that Ho Ching's annual salary at Temasek is 'around $100 million'
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2020

Claims made in some online posts that Temasek chief executive and executive director Ho Ching's annual salary is around $100 million are false, the Government has said.

The posts also prompted Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to instruct the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office to issue four correction directions yesterday.

These were to The Online Citizen's Facebook page and website, The Temasek Review's Facebook page, HardwareZone user "darksiedluv" and opposition politician and lawyer Lim Tean for sharing the falsehood on his Facebook page.



They had made various claims that Ms Ho's annual salary is "NT$2.1 billion", "about 100 million SGD" or "S$99 million a year".

Temasek said on its website yesterday: "There has been chatter based on an Asian talk show commentary, which claims that Ho Ching's annual salary is around $100 million. This claim is false.

"Ho Ching's annual compensation is neither the highest within Temasek, nor is she amongst the top five highest paid executives in Temasek."



Ms Ho is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The statement from the POFMA office added: "The Government does not set the remuneration of staff in Temasek; this is the responsibility of its board and management."

Temasek's board committee, the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee (LDCC), establishes guidelines and policies on performance measurement and compensation plans, it said.

"Remuneration of the executive directors of Temasek Holdings is approved by LDCC and endorsed by its board."

The Online Citizen said in a Facebook post that it filed an application to Mr Heng to cancel the correction direction at 7pm yesterday. "In the event that the minister rejects the application, we will file an application to the High Court to contest the correction direction."

It noted that while the correction directions made references to Facebook and HardwareZone posts, they did not identify the Taiwan news outlet that made the initial claim, and added that as its website is migrating to a new server, it will not be updating the site for the time being.



Mr Lim, who is the People's Voice party chief, demanded on Facebook yesterday to know on what basis Mr Heng was able to issue a POFMA correction direction if the Government does not interfere with the remuneration of Temasek's management.

Temasek said in its statement that it has a long-term ownership mindset, which includes a "compensation framework to align employee and shareholder interests over economic cycles".

"Incentives focus on long-term performance, and ensure employees share gains and pains alongside Temasek's shareholder during the economic cycles."

It noted that deferred compensation is an integral part of its compensation and clawbacks have been applied during years where the performance requires it.

"We also review compensation practices across the financial industry annually. This is an added check to support talent attraction and retention, within the context of our compensation framework."
























POFMA no. 16: 18 Apr 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and Clarifications Regarding Falsehoods Published by Singapore States Times on the Reporting of COVID-19 Cases in Singapore
False statement made in a Facebook post by Singapore States Times on 18 April 2020 


POFMA office orders Singapore States Times to correct post alleging COVID-19 cover-up by MOH
By Michelle Ng, The Sunday Times, 19 Apr 2020

An online post claiming 1,146 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection on Friday, with a total of 5,573 confirmed cases in Singapore, is false.

There were 623 confirmed cases as of noon on Friday, 17 April, bringing the total number of cases to 5,050, with no cover-up from the Ministry of Health (MOH), said the Government as it invoked the fake news law against website Singapore States Times.

Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office yesterday to issue a correction direction to the website's Facebook page for its "multiple false statements" on MOH's reporting of COVID-19 cases.



The post claimed Mr Gan had ordered the reported numbers to be halved to minimise public panic, by reporting numbers in the afternoon instead of later at night.

It also claimed other kinds of cover-up regarding COVID-19 reporting by the authorities, and that another website, The States Times Review, had called out the Government and MOH on the cover-up. It said MOH had to comply with The States Times Review's post.

However, the Government has clarified that there was no instruction given by Mr Gan or the Government to halve or under-report the number of cases.

For the purpose of updating the number of new cases of COVID-19 per 24-hour period, MOH has always used noon as the cut-off time since the onset of COVID-19, said the Government on its fact-checking website Factually.



The Government said MOH's daily press statements publish information on all confirmed cases, including the number of imported cases, and the linked and unlinked cases at that point in time.

MOH's daily reports on the situation and an overview of cases can be publicly accessed on its website.

It added that MOH does not act and has not acted in compliance with any of The States Times Review's posts.

The POFMA directive would require Singapore States Times to display a correction notice and provide access to the accurate information. It is not compulsory for Singapore States Times to take down the post or make edits to its content, and the directive does not impose criminal sanctions.









POFMA no. 15: 17 Apr 2020

FACTUALLY: Clarification on falsehood posted by TTR on food delivery rider
False statement made by The Temasek Review on Police enforcement of circuit breaker measures on 15 Apr 2020


POFMA office orders The Temasek Review to correct FB post alleging police fined delivery rider for cloth mask
Police, public agencies debunk viral falsehoods
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2020

A Facebook post that alleged the police had fined a delivery rider $300 for wearing a piece of cloth as a mask is false.

Officers were in fact helping the rider, the Government said as it invoked the fake news law against The Temasek Review, which perpetuated the falsehood along with a picture of a masked delivery rider and police officer.



Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam yesterday instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a correction direction to the website's Facebook page.

The POFMA directive comes amid a growing wave of coronavirus-related fake news that the authorities have had to debunk.

To combat The Temasek Review's false allegations, the Government clarified on its fact-checking website Factually that the police officer in the photo was taking the statement of the delivery rider, who believed that items were stolen from his motorcycle.



No summonses were issued and the incident had nothing to do with circuit breaker measures or illegal parking, the clarification said.

Masks made of cloth and textile are permitted under the law.

"Such allegations are highly irresponsible and hurt public confidence and trust in the police. It also undermines our officers, who are at the front lines trying to keep Singaporeans safe and secure during this challenging period," it added.

The police have also stepped up efforts to debunk fake news by releasing a video titled Facts vs Rumours to clarify viral rumours circulating about police operations since the circuit breaker measures took effect on April 7.



Netizens had falsely claimed that police were actively searching for and arresting those who flout safe distancing measures, such as through roadblocks or random checks on residential units.

Such claims are false, the police said in the video, noting that measures such as road blocks are for general law enforcement purposes, like detecting wanted persons and drink driving.

For example, the police had issued a warning letter to a couple who were present at their family member's home for a non-essential purpose, but officers were only at the flat as they were responding to a phone call for help over a family dispute, said the police.

The video also refuted a rumour that a man was arrested for not wearing a mask in a Toa Payoh pharmacy. He was arrested for shop theft and disorderly behaviour.

Those who do not wear a mask in public can be fined $300.



It also clarified a rumour arising from a video of a man shouting at two police officers, noting that he was arrested for failing to return to the welfare home where he lives.

The man had sat on a bench that was cordoned off and refused to leave the area despite repeated warnings by safe distancing ambassadors and the police.

In the video, the police urged people to comply with safe distancing measures and not spread false information. "Police resources are vital to maintaining law and order in Singapore", they said, adding that they should not be spent on debunking false rumours.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) also warned on Thursday of false messages that purport to recruit staff to work at foreign worker dormitories and the community isolation facility at Singapore Expo.



MINDEF said in a Facebook post that recruitment messages asking for personal particulars are fake, although it is hiring former Singapore Armed Forces regulars.

"For genuine job openings for former regulars, MINDEF will not ask for personal details," it said.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) also distanced itself from text messages from recruitment agency PrimeStaff Management Services purportedly hiring employees for the community isolation facility at Singapore Expo.

"We wish to clarify that MOH has not engaged PrimeStaff Management Services to conduct this recruitment," it said on its website on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Jean Iau

























POFMA no. 14: 6 Apr 2020

FACTUALLY: Clarification regarding falsehood published by Singapore States Times on quarantine of foreign workers
False statement made by Singapore States Times (Alex Tan) on Facebook about the quarantine of foreign workers due to COVID-19 on 5 Apr 2020


Manpower Minister orders correction directions to Facebook post about quarantined foreign workers' pay: POFMA Office
TODAY, 7 Apr 2020

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Monday (April 6) ordered correction directions to be made to Mr Alex Tan and the Singapore States Times Facebook page for falsely claiming that quarantined foreign workers would not be paid their salaries.



A post by Mr Tan containing the falsehood was published on the Singapore States Times Facebook page on Sunday at 8.43pm, said the POFMA Office, which enforces the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.

Mr Tan and the Singapore States Times Facebook page would be required to publish a correction notice on their post, while Facebook has also been issued a targeted correction direction, requiring the Internet intermediary to put up a correction notice on the offending post, said the office.



The post was made after authorities announced that two foreign worker dormitories which have seen a “significant” climb in new Covid-19 infections had been gazetted as isolation areas.

This means all 19,800 foreign workers housed at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite Toh Guan dormitory would be quarantined in their rooms for 14 days.

Both dorms account for a total of 90 Covid-19 cases so far, with the larger cluster at the S11 Dormitory.

Mr Tan's post claimed that they were "not getting a single cent from 14 days of quarantine”, referring to the foreign workers in the two dorms. 

A clarification on the Government's Factually website repeated Manpower Minister Josephine Teo's assurances on Sunday that the workers will continue to be paid their salaries for the duration of their quarantine.

"Their period of absence from work is treated as paid hospitalisation leave, as part of the worker’s leave eligibility," said the website.

"The facts above were published before the post on Singapore States Times, and could have easily been verified."



No correction notice has been attached to the post as of 9.45pm on Monday, according to a check by CNA.

The Singapore States Times Facebook page is run by Mr Tan, who lives in Australia.

He was also behind the States Times Review Facebook page, which was blocked for Singapore users in February "after repeatedly posting falsehoods, and refusing to post corrections or comply with the law in any way", said the Factually website.







Facebook user issued POFMA notice for false claims on Resilience Budget
By Jean Iau, The Straits Times, 2 Apr 2020

The $48 billion supplementary Budget will not go specifically to Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Temasek, said the Government yesterday as it invoked Singapore's fake news law against a Facebook user.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office said yesterday that it has been instructed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat to issue a correction direction against Facebook user tifinnytara.



On Sunday, the user posted on her Facebook page that almost one-third of the help set out in the supplementary Budget would go to SIA.

This is untrue, said the Government on its fact-checking website Factually.

SIA's $15 billion capital-raising effort, announced last Thursday, is not funded by the Government.

The Facebook user also claimed in the same post that the $17 billion to come from Singapore's past reserves would be ring-fenced for Temasek.

The measures drawing on the past reserves are for broad-based economy and sector-wide schemes. None is dedicated specifically to Temasek or Temasek-linked companies.



The Government said the $48.4 billion in the Budget would go towards supporting workers, helping enterprises overcome immediate challenges, and strengthening economic and social resilience.

Of this, $20 billion has been set aside for loan capital while $13.8 billion will be for the Jobs Support Scheme to provide wage support to employers to help them retain their local employees.

The scheme covers all sectors, with those that are severely impacted getting additional support.

Eligible individuals and households will also benefit from the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme and the Care and Support Package.

Following the POFMA directive, the user must display a correction notice and provide access to the accurate information. The direction does not require the recipient to take down her post or make edits to her content, and does not impose criminal sanctions.

The POFMA office declined to say when the Facebook user has to comply with the correction direction.

The Straits Times has contacted tifinnytara for comment.



This is not the first time the law has been invoked to correct statements involving the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, three Facebook users, including opposition politician and lawyer Lim Tean, were issued correction directions for alleging the People's Association (PA) and residents' committees (RCs) were involved in the organisation of an event that resulted in Singapore's largest coronavirus cluster.

In January, two Facebook accounts were issued correction directions after their posts claimed Woodlands MRT station was closed for disinfection because of a suspected Covid-19 case.

That month, SPH Magazines was also asked to correct an online post in the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the virus infection, while The States Times Review Facebook page was instructed to correct a post that claimed Singapore had run out of face masks.








POFMA no. 12: 18 Mar 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods that dinner event at SAFRA Jurong was organised by People’s Association
False statements that People’s Association had organised the dinner event at SAFRA Jurong on 15 Feb 2020


POFMA office orders opposition politician Lim Tean, 2 Facebook users to correct posts alleging PA event led to Singapore's largest coronavirus cluster
By Clement Yong, The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2020

Three Facebook users, including opposition politician and lawyer Lim Tean, have been issued correction directions for alleging that the People's Association (PA) and residents' committees (RCs) were involved in the organisation of an event that has emerged as Singapore's largest coronavirus cluster.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office said in a statement yesterday that PA deputy chairman Chan Chun Sing initiated the correction order on posts about the Feb 15 SAFRA Jurong Chinese New Year function that has so far surfaced 47 confirmed COVID-19 patients here.

All three people - Mr Lim, "Henryace Ace" and Mr Sebastian Ying - had posted or shared links saying the PA and RCs were responsible for the infections linked to the event.

Mr Lim, who is the People's Voice party chief, did so on both his pages Lim Tean and Tean Lim.



According to the government fact-checking website Factually, the posts alleging PA or RC involvement in the Feb 15 event are "entirely false". It said: "PA and the RCs were not involved in the organisation of the dinner event... and were not in a position to cancel it. PA and the RCs also did not fund or publicise the dinner event. The event was a private dinner function organised by a singing instructor for members of her singing groups."

This is the third time Mr Lim has been issued with an order from the POFMA office. The first was last December, for a post which the Government said had implied it was spending more on foreign students than Singaporean students.

He was also instructed to put up a correction notice in January after sharing an article by website AB-TC City News that claimed five Singaporeans had contracted the coronavirus without going to China.



All three will need to put up a correction alongside the offending Facebook posts. Mr Lim has done so. "Henryace Ace" did not, but had a post saying: "I will permanently shut down my FB account shortly. Ending my online life and getting on with real life."

Mr Ying could no longer be found on Facebook.

This is not the first time the law has been invoked to correct statements made about the COVID-19 outbreak. In January, two Facebook accounts were issued correction directions after they made posts claiming that Woodlands MRT station was closed for disinfection because of a suspected COVID-19 case.



That month, SPH Magazines was also asked to correct an online post in the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the virus infection, while The States Times Review Facebook page was instructed to correct a post that claimed Singapore had run out of face masks.

POFMA gives ministers the power to act against a piece of falsehood on the Internet when it is in the public's interest to do so.








POFMA no. 11: 26 Feb 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods by Gilbert Goh and The Independent Singapore
False statements that a single mother and her six children were evicted from their rental flat due to her inability to pay rent


Claims of HDB eviction of woman are false, says MND; news site complies with order
By Jean Iau, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2020

An online account of a woman who was allegedly evicted from her Housing Board rental flat is not true, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday as Singapore's law against fake news was invoked on the matter.

Earlier this month, political activist Gilbert Goh put up a Facebook post on the eviction issue, while alternative news site The Independent Singapore (TISG) posted an article on its website and put up a post on Facebook about it.



Yesterday, MND said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has told the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue a correction notice against Mr Goh and TISG over this.

The correction direction requires Mr Goh and TISG to carry, in full, a correction notice at the top of their posts.

Their posts and article relate to an account about a woman, said to be a single mother known only as Lina, and her six children who were said to be evicted from their rented HDB flat for defaulting on rent payment.

The posts also claimed that the family was staying at her sister's house.



MND said both claims are false as HDB did not evict Lina from the flat. Instead, early this month, a man verified as her husband terminated the tenancy for the flat and returned the keys to HDB.

The family also did not have any overdue rent throughout the period of the last tenancy.

The ministry added that Lina and her husband bought a new flat from HDB which has been paid in full, and the family has moved into the new flat.

Mr Goh's Facebook post on Feb 19 is written in the first person, presumably from Lina, who asked for help. At the end of the post, Mr Goh said a visit to the family would be made to verify what she said.

TISG's Feb 21 article on Lina and her family is based on Mr Goh's account of his interactions with the woman.



MND said that when HDB staff visited Lina's family in its new flat last Saturday, the woman and her husband said it was their relative who had approached Mr Goh for help.

The family has been receiving assistance - including cash, vouchers, subsidies and food rations - from various government agencies and community partners.

The family has also received food rations and supermarket vouchers from its local grassroots organisation, said MND.

TISG put up a correction notice on its Facebook post and online article yesterday evening.










POFMA no. 10: 14 Feb 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods published by States Times Review on COVID-19 situation
False statements made in a Facebook post by States Times Review on 13 Feb 2020


Govt invokes fake news law against false claims by States Times Review about the coronavirus outbreak
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2020

The States Times Review (STR) Facebook page was yesterday ordered under the fake news law to put up corrections alongside false statements it made about the coronavirus outbreak.

This is the second order issued against STR under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) for bogus claims about the coronavirus crisis. STR had earlier falsely claimed that Singapore had run out of face masks.

To date, the law has been used to deal with five cases of falsehoods related to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday instructed the POFMA Office to issue a correction order over "multiple false statements" in a post that STR put up the day before.

The post is about the 30,000 Chinese work pass holders who have not returned to Singapore, and it was shared more than 300 times.

Among the erroneous claims are that Singapore has not been able to trace the sources of infection for any of the infected COVID-19 cases here.



The Government, describing the claims by STR as "entirely false", rebutted them point by point in a statement on its fact-checking website, Factually. On the sources of infection, the statement said the Ministry of Health (MOH) had in fact established through epidemiological investigations and contact tracing that 51 of the 58 people infected with the virus (as of yesterday afternoon) either had travelled to China or came from there, or had links to previously announced cases.

Contact tracing is under way for the remaining seven cases to see if there are similar links or travel history to China.

The STR also said the Government is "the only one" telling people not to wear masks.

This is not true, as the MOH's advice is in line with the World Health Organisation's guidance, and similar to advice given by the health authorities in countries such as the United States and Australia, said the government statement.

The MOH's advice is that people who are well do not need to wear a mask, but those with respiratory symptoms should don one to minimise the risk of infecting others.

STR made two other false claims - about the daily $100 allowance for workers on leave of absence (LOA) and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo's remarks about Chinese workers.



Rebutting the claims, the Government said Chinese work pass holders placed on a mandatory 14-day leave of absence "do not receive the $100 daily support". Though the LOA support programme covers all workers, regardless of nationality, it is employers who receive the support, it added.

These employers must have workers who travelled to China on or before Jan 31, and who were placed on leave of absence after returning to Singapore on or after Jan 31.

The Government also made clear that Mrs Teo never said she was working hard to bring more Chinese workers back to Singapore.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Manpower has put in place measures to slow down the return of affected work pass holders, such as requiring employers to get prior approval before their workers can return, said the statement. It has also rejected more applications than it has approved.

The STR had also said seven countries have since banned travel to Singapore owing to a lack of confidence in the measures taken so far to curb the spread of the virus.

But as of 8pm on Thursday, there had been no such bans by any countries, said the Government.



The STR Facebook page is run by Singaporean Alex Tan, who has received three POFMA orders so far since the laws against misinformation kicked in last October. He has not complied with any of the orders, and said he is now an Australian citizen.

Besides issuing the correction order to Mr Tan, the POFMA Office also issued a Targeted Correction Direction to Facebook yesterday, requiring the social media company to put up the corrections on the STR post.

The office had done the same in previous POFMA cases involving STR.















States Times Review Facebook page barred from receiving any financial benefit under POFMA
States Times Review penalised under fake news law for refusing to put up corrections to published falsehoods
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 16 Feb 2020

The States Times Review (STR) Facebook page has become the first online site to be barred from receiving any financial benefit under Singapore's laws against fake news, after it refused to put up corrections to falsehoods it had published.

The page, owned by Singaporean Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, was designated as a Declared Online Location (DOL) yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

This comes after STR received correction directions on three separate occasions for publishing falsehoods on various issues, including on the coronavirus situation in Singapore.

In all three instances, Mr Tan ignored the orders to put up corrections alongside his post.

Under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), online sites which receive three such directions within six months can be declared a DOL.

The declaration takes effect today.

In announcing the move, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said: "The STR Facebook page is linked to other websites that are also operated by Alex Tan which derive monetary benefits from these falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society."

The ministry also said in its statement that the page will have to carry a notice warning people that it has a history of communicating falsehoods, among other things.

Mr Tan can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, if he does not comply.



In addition, it is also an offence for him to profit from the page, or for anyone to provide financial support to the page for the purpose of communicating falsehoods.

They can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, for doing so.

MCI noted that the STR Facebook page "has repeatedly conveyed numerous falsehoods", three of which were the subject of POFMA directions this month and last month, and in November last year.

Among the erroneous claims the page was issued correction directions for were that Singapore has not been able to trace the source infections in any of the coronavirus cases and that Singapore had run out of surgical masks.

In another case unrelated to the outbreak of the virus, Mr Tan had made up a story about the police having arrested someone over comments on a potential People's Action Party candidate.

Under POFMA, Facebook, which is considered a digital advertising intermediary, must also take steps, both in and outside Singapore, to ensure that paid content on the STR page is not displayed to users in Singapore.

If Mr Tan does not comply with the declaration, and paid content on the STR Facebook page continues to be displayed to users here, the Government can also direct Internet access service providers to block the STR Facebook page so people cannot access it here.

If an Internet service provider or Internet intermediary fails to comply and is convicted, it can be fined up to $20,000 for each day that the government order is not fully complied with, up to a total of $500,000.















Facebook blocks access in Singapore to States Times Review page for breaching Pofma
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2020

Facebook has blocked access to a page on its platform that has been publishing falsehoods on various issues in Singapore, including the coronavirus outbreak, but not without registering its protest.

The social media giant on Tuesday (Feb 18) disabled access to the States Times Review (STR) Facebook page, making it unavailable to users in Singapore after it was required to do so under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

Commenting on the move, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said it was especially important to stop the spread of falsehoods as Singapore battles the coronavirus disease, known as Covid-19.

"The reason why we need to act swiftly is because if we don't, then these falsehoods can cause anxiety, fear and even panic," he told reporters yesterday at an event held by the Hindu Endowments Board to discuss precautionary measures against the coronavirus.



The STR Facebook page, owned by Singaporean Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, has received three correction directions under the fake news law since last November. Two had to do with the virus outbreak.

After Mr Tan ignored all three directions, the STR page was designated a declared online location (DOL) on Saturday and barred from receiving any financial benefit, among other things.

Despite this, he did not comply with the rules under Pofma, and the authorities then issued an order for Facebook to disable access to the page for Singapore users.

On Tuesday, a Facebook spokesman told The Straits Times the company had conducted a careful review and determined that it was legally compelled to restrict access to the page under Singapore's laws.

But she criticised the order for being disproportionate, and said it contradicted the Government's claim that Pofma would not be used as a censorship tool.

She added: "We've repeatedly highlighted this law's potential for overreach and we're deeply concerned about the precedent this sets for the stifling of freedom of expression in Singapore."



Under Pofma, online sites can be designated as a DOL after they receive three corrections directions within six months.

In the case of the STR page, the Ministry of Communications and Information had noted that it "has repeatedly conveyed numerous falsehoods".

The erroneous claims that the page was issued corrections directions for included statements that Singapore has not been able to trace the source infections in any of the coronavirus cases, and that the country had run out of masks.

Emphasising the importance of ensuring that Singaporeans get the right information during a public health threat, Mr Iswaran said STR's actions and those of others who have perpetuated falsehoods during this period could cause anxiety, fear and even panic.

"We want to avoid that because that is not only (unhelpful) to our overall effort, it is actually going to be harmful," he said, describing the battle against the coronavirus as both a healthcare and psychological challenge.

"On the psychological side, it is essential that... we put out timely information, accurate information, so that our citizens are well informed and understand what is happening."



Noting that some people have exploited the situation to purvey falsehoods, he said it was critical to shut down such lies swiftly.

In most of the five cases to do with the coronavirus outbreak so far, those who have received the correction directions have complied. Only Mr Tan had ignored them, he added.

The Government had to issue a further direction under Section 34 of Pofma to disable access to the page for Singapore users after Mr Tan failed to put up a warning as required when it was declared a DOL, Mr Iswaran said.






POFMA invoked against two fake posts on masks, Singaporean cases
POFMA exemptions lifted amid spread of fake news
By Clara Chong and Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2020

The prevalence of social media is one key difference between the current Wuhan virus outbreak and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis of 2003, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Noting that rumours have been circulating on various channels about the novel coronavirus, he said he was very glad that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) is in place.

"Some of it, we know, is malicious and deliberate - people who are making up stories, people who are deliberately fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt," he told reporters during a visit to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

"We have acted promptly against them using POFMA, and we are very diligent in putting out information as quickly as we get it, and as quickly as we can verify it, in order to make sure that people know what is the truth - what you need to worry about and what you should ignore."



The fake news law was invoked twice yesterday in relation to the Wuhan virus.

On Thursday, a website called AB-TC City News published an article that claimed five Singaporeans had contracted the Wuhan coronavirus without going to China. The article was subsequently shared by opposition party leader and lawyer Lim Tean as well as Facebook group Say No To PAP on their Facebook pages.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday instructed the POFMA Office to issue correction directions against AB-TC City News, Mr Lim and the Say No To PAP group.

In a statement, the POFMA Office said AB-TC City News will be required to carry a correction notice alongside its article. It noted that while Mr Lim and Say No To PAP have taken down their Facebook posts containing the falsehood, they will still have to carry a correction notice on their respective Facebook pages to ensure that people who had viewed their posts are informed of the facts.

In a separate case, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday instructed the POFMA Office to issue a correction direction against Mr Alex Tan and a targeted correction direction to Facebook over a post that Mr Tan made on his States Times Review Facebook page which falsely claimed that Singapore had run out of face masks.

Mr Tan, the founder and editor of States Times Review, was an opposition party member and is now an Australian citizen.



Yesterday's correction direction was the second to be issued against the States Times Review. In November last year, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam issued a correction direction against Mr Tan over a Nov 23 post on the States Times Review Facebook page about People's Action Party member Rachel Ong and a Nussu-NUS Students United Facebook post.

The Government also invoked the fake news law twice earlier this week to correct falsehoods about the Wuhan virus.

On Monday, SPH Magazines was asked to correct an online post on the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the Wuhan virus infection. The company, which had taken down the thread earlier in line with its community guidelines, also complied with the order.

On Tuesday, the Government invoked POFMA against Facebook to correct two posts that told people to avoid Woodlands MRT station, claiming a suspected case was discovered there. The posts, put up by different accounts, also falsely claimed the station was closed for disinfection.



The Government has also lifted temporary exemptions on general correction directions for a number of search engines and social media platforms, including Google, Baidu, Facebook and Twitter, with effect from yesterday.

A general correction direction can be issued to prescribed Internet intermediaries, telecoms and broadcast licensees, or newspapers, to get them to communicate a correction notice to all users in Singapore - not just the ones who access the falsehood - when a false statement has been conveyed and it is in the public interest to correct it.



Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said yesterday that as the situation continues to evolve, the information flow will be fluid. "All the more we must all rely on trusted information sources and take a firm stand against those who spread falsehoods that cause anxiety and alarm, especially at a time of heightened concern in our society," he added.









POFMA no. 7: 28 Jan 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods that Woodlands MRT closed for disinfection
False claims that Woodlands MRT closed due to Wuhan coronavirus infection


Government debunks fake news linking closure of Woodlands MRT station to Wuhan virus
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Jan 2020

Woodlands MRT station was not closed because of a suspected case of the Wuhan virus, as claimed by several Facebook posts, said the Government yesterday as it invoked Singapore's law against fake news for the second time in relation to the virus.

As misinformation swirled online, two posts circulating on Facebook told people to avoid Woodlands MRT station, claiming a suspected case was discovered there.

The posts, put up by different accounts, also falsely claimed the station was closed for disinfection.

Debunking the fake news, the Transport Ministry said in a Facebook post yesterday: "We would like to clarify that this is not true. Woodlands MRT was not closed on 28 Jan 2020; it was fully operational."

The ministry also asked people not to speculate and spread unfounded rumours, and to get the latest updates on the Wuhan virus situation through government channels such as www.moh.gov.sg or the Gov.sg WhatsApp group at https://go.gov.sg/whatsapp



The latest use of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) against misinformation involving the Wuhan virus follows a warning on Monday by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

He had said at a press conference that swift action would be taken against such falsehoods as they could cause panic among Singaporeans.

Mr Iswaran, who is part of a multi-ministry task force set up to tackle the Wuhan virus, also said his ministry was working with the Health Ministry to keep Singaporeans informed of developments.

Yesterday, the authorities asked Facebook to carry a correction notice alongside the two posts on Woodlands MRT station, directing people to the facts at www.gov.sg/article/factually-clarifications-on-falsehoods-on-woodlands-m...

As of 8pm yesterday, the notices were not up.



Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan had initiated the targeted correction direction under POFMA, the second time the law has been used in relation to the virus.

In the first instance, SPH Magazines was asked to correct an online post on the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the Wuhan virus infection. The company had earlier taken down the thread, in line with its community guidelines, and also complied with the order.

In recent days, several other posts alleging unverified information have also prompted clarifications from the authorities. One fake message on HardwareZone claimed Singapore had repatriated more than 100 Wuhan tourists to China. The POFMA Office urged people to report any suspected falsehoods to info@pofmaoffice.gov.sg















POFMA no. 6: 27 Jan 2020


FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods posted on HardwareZone Forum Post
False statement made in a HardwareZone Forum post


SPH Magazines complies with POFMA correction order on false HardwareZone post
The Straits Times, 28 Jan 2020

SPH Magazines has complied with an order by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to correct an online post in the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed that a man in Singapore had died from the Wuhan virus infection.

"A false statement was made in a HardwareZone forum post, claiming that a man has died from the Wuhan coronavirus infection in Singapore. HardwareZone is required to carry the correction notice to all end-users in Singapore who use HardwareZone.com," said the POFMA Office in a statement early yesterday.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong instructed that the order be issued, the POFMA Office added.

The forum post was made on Sunday at 5.50pm.

It was removed before the POFMA order was received.



SPH Magazines, which operates HardwareZone forum, complied with the correction notice which included a link to a government website which corrected the falsehoods in the original post.

"HardwareZone.com had, in fact, taken down the thread earlier, in line with its community guidelines. It has also promptly complied with the direction and published the correction notice," said an SPH Magazines spokesman.

"Forum users have also been reminded to post responsibly."










POFMA no. 5: 22 Jan 2020

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods posted by Lawyers for Liberty
False statements of fact were made by Lawyers for Liberty regarding the procedure for judicial executions in Changi Prison


MHA refutes Malaysia NGO's claims against Singapore's execution method, issues POFMA correction orders against 4 parties
The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2020

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has refuted Malaysia-based non-governmental organisation Lawyers for Liberty's (LFL) allegations about Singapore's execution method, saying the claims were "untrue, baseless and preposterous".

It also invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and ordered LFL and three parties that have shared the allegations - Singaporean activist Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen website and Yahoo Singapore - to correct the false statements.

This is the fifth case where POFMA has been invoked since it came into effect on Oct 2 last year.

Last Thursday, LFL said in a statement that Singapore prison officers were instructed to kick the back of a prisoner's neck with great force to break it, if the rope breaks during a hanging, and that the Singapore Government approved of "unlawful methods" that are used to cover up an execution if the rope breaks.

"These allegations are entirely unfounded," MHA said yesterday.



Singapore executes its condemned prisoners by hanging. The ministry said that all judicial executions in Singapore are carried out in strict compliance with the law.

"All judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others. The law also requires a coroner (who is a judicial officer of the State Courts) to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to satisfy himself that the execution was carried out duly and properly," MHA said.

"For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any 'special training to carry out the brutal execution method' as alleged. Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with."



The ministry said LFL has a history of publishing sensational and untrue stories to seek attention in the hope of getting Malaysian prisoners who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore off the death penalty.

"Those who traffic drugs in Singapore harm and destroy the lives of countless Singaporeans. These traffickers must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions," MHA said.



Yesterday, MHA also said it has instructed the POFMA office to issue correction directions against LFL, as well as three other parties: Ms Han's Facebook post which shared LFL's statement, The Online Citizen which has an article that contained the falsehoods, and Yahoo Singapore's Facebook post which shared an article that contained the falsehoods.

"They will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods," MHA said.

Ms Han said in a Facebook post yesterday that she had sent questions to the Singapore Prison Service about the claims made by LFL, but did not receive a response.

She appended the correction notice to her post yesterday afternoon; she also raised concerns over how this affects the ability of journalists, activists and citizens to follow up on allegations.

"In the interests of dealing with 'fake news', I hope that government and public agencies can be more responsive to queries from journalists and/or civil society groups when they are seeking information that can clarify matters," she said.



Separately, The Online Citizen said it has filed an application to the Minister for Home Affairs to cancel the correction direction it received.

LFL said it will not comply with the correction notice and demanded that the notice be "unconditionally withdrawn with immediate effect".

It says it stands by its original statement, which is based on evidence from "former and current Singapore prison officers... with impeccable service records". It added that it is "outrageous and unacceptable" for Singapore to issue such a notice to a Malaysian organisation.




















IMDA to block Malaysian NGO website after it fails to comply with POFMA correction: MCI
By Tee Zhuo, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2020

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will get Internet service providers here to block the website of a Malaysian rights group that alleged Singapore's prisons had used unlawful methods for executions.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said yesterday its minister directed the IMDA to do so after the Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) group did not comply with a correction direction issued under the fake news law against a Jan 22 statement on its website.

"The correction direction issued to LFL had required the facts to be juxtaposed against the falsehoods, so that end-users in Singapore can read both versions and draw their own conclusions," MCI said.



LFL had claimed that Singapore prison officers were instructed to kick the back of a prisoner's neck with great force to break it, if the rope broke during a hanging, and that the Singapore Government approved of such "unlawful methods".

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refuted the claims on Wednesday, calling them "untrue, baseless and preposterous".

It added that the rope used for executions has never broken before and that prison officers do not receive any training to carry out the alleged brutal execution method.

In its statement yesterday, MCI said the access blocking orders will ensure the falsehoods on LFL's website are no longer communicated in Singapore without the facts placed alongside them. It added that the orders would be lifted if the group complied with the correction direction.

Apart from LFL, the MHA also issued correction directions to three other parties: Singaporean freelance journalist Kirsten Han, who had shared LFL's statement on Facebook, The Online Citizen (TOC), which had an article that contained the falsehoods, and Yahoo Singapore, which shared an article that had the falsehoods.



Ms Han said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that she had sent questions to the Singapore Prison Service about LFL's claims, but did not receive a response. She appended the correction notice to her post that same day.

Yahoo appended the correction notice to its Facebook post yesterday, while TOC said it had filed an application to the Minister for Home Affairs to cancel the correction direction it received.

Separately, Ms Han and lawyer M. Ravi both posted on Facebook yesterday that LFL would be taking legal action against Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam today in Kuala Lumpur.









Parliament: Use of fake news law against opposition politicians is 'the consequence of their actions', says Iswaran
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 7 Jan 2020

In applying Singapore's fake news law, the focus is on whether there is a falsehood and whether it is in the public interest to act against it, rather than the identity of the person or entity responsible for the falsehood, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran yesterday.

The fact that the first few directions to correct the falsehoods - issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) - were made against individuals who are either politicians or affiliated with political parties, or political parties themselves, is a "convergence, some might say an unfortunate convergence or coincidence", he told Parliament.

"If you look at it in totality, we have to take into account the overall impact, then we have to consider what is the proportionate response, and then be prepared to take it.

"If it so happens that some of the people involved are politically affiliated, that's just the consequence of their actions," he added.



He was replying to Nominated MPs Anthea Ong and Walter Theseira on the use of POFMA, which has been invoked four times since it came into effect last Oct 2.

Ms Ong asked how the threshold for assessing public interest is determined and measured under POFMA, and whether Mr Iswaran's ministry would consider recommending that ministers state which public interest criteria under POFMA are met, and how so, when requesting a direction to be issued.

Associate Professor Theseira asked whether the identity of the person or entity responsible for the falsehood matters when deciding whether it is in the public interest to act against it.

Three of the four cases involved opposition parties or their members, including the Singapore Democratic Party, People's Voice Party leader Lim Tean and Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer.

POFMA was also used to correct a Facebook post made by Mr Alex Tan, the administrator of the States Times Review website.

Mr Iswaran said these four individuals or entities had made false statements of fact about "issues of fundamental importance to Singaporeans". He added: "The falsehoods allege that the Government mismanaged public funds, abused police powers and discriminated against Singapore citizens in favour of foreigners."

Failing to deal decisively with such falsehoods will erode or even undermine public trust in Singapore's institutions, with serious consequences for its democracy, said the minister.



The Government and MPs have a duty to ensure Singaporeans are not misled or misinformed by such falsehoods, he said, adding that correction directions have been issued in all of the POFMA cases so far.

"These directions require that the facts be placed alongside the original posts, so that Singaporeans can read both versions and draw their own conclusions," Mr Iswaran said.

He said ministers who order directions under POFMA are required to provide the legal basis for determining a statement is a falsehood.

"In the recent cases, the falsehoods and the reasons for using POFMA were made clear in the clarifications that were issued by the respective ministries.

"If the recipient of the POFMA direction disputes the facts, quick and inexpensive recourse to the courts is available. These provisions ensure transparency and accountability in the POFMA process," he added.

Ms Ong asked if the ministry would consider having a central listing on the POFMA website of all issued directions.

Mr Iswaran said all corrections issued under POFMA are already compiled in a section of government fact-checking website Factually. "In addition, the POFMA Office website has a list of the press releases issued together with POFMA directions."

Ms Ong also asked if the POFMA Office is monitoring and flagging fake news that is not partisan, which may also be in the public interest. She cited the example of the Nussu-NUS Students United Facebook page, which parodies the National University of Singapore Students' Union (Nussu).

Mr Iswaran said: "There is some effort to monitor, but primarily I think we are looking at those cases which are egregious, and those that are egregious will pop up naturally."




















Parliament: POFMA rules apply to all political ads, not only those containing falsehoods, says Iswaran
Transparency code applies to all political ads
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 7 Jan 2020

An advertising code of practice under Singapore's fake news law, which took effect in October last year, applies to all political advertisements.

This includes even those ads that are not accused of containing falsehoods, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday in his reply to Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).

The Code of Practice for Transparency of Online Political Advertisements sets out measures that certain intermediaries, such as social media platforms, must implement to ensure the transparency of online political advertising.

For example, it requires these intermediaries to ensure that online political ads carry disclosure notices to inform readers of the person or organisation that had placed or paid for the ads.



Mr Iswaran said intermediaries are also required to put in place other accountability measures, such as maintaining a database of online political ads, and providing channels for members of the public to report ads that are not disclosed.

Ms Lim also asked why the POFMA Office requires companies to maintain such records, including a copy of the ad, the name of its originator, the amount paid, a description of its intended target audience and the number of viewers reached, among other things.

"If the advert has nothing fake or alleged to be fake in it, what is the interest of the POFMA Office to know these things?" she asked.

Mr Iswaran replied: "The requirement is imposed on the intermediaries to keep the information. It doesn't mean that the POFMA Office has to have access to this information, but the information must be available so that in the event action is required, the relevant information is available."



He noted that major platforms such as Google and Twitter do not allow political ads at all.

On Facebook, the information disclosed to the public about political ads on its platform already goes beyond that required by the advertising code.

The Facebook Ad Library offers information about who paid for an ad - not just political ads - how much they spent and how many people saw it, among other things. The library was launched in March last year.

Said Mr Iswaran: "Our objective is to ensure the information is captured because if you don't spell it out clearly and you want it after the fact, it may not be available, which will then thwart the intent of the legislation."










Singapore Government officials rebut Bloomberg, South China Morning Post articles on POFMA
They make the point that the Govt has not restricted free debate through its use of law
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Jan 2020

Government officials have rebutted articles by Bloomberg and the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Singapore's fake news law, the latest in a series of such responses to media outlets.

In her reply released yesterday, Ms Ho Hwei Ling, press secretary to Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, said all three versions of an article Bloomberg ran had alleged that the Singapore Government uses the law to suppress dissent and the right to free expression.

This is untrue, she said, noting that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was used to issue correction directions. This allows the public to access both the original posts and corrections, and decide for themselves which is true.

"No information or view has been suppressed," she stressed.



Ms Ho also said that the Bloomberg article published on Dec 27, Singapore Goes On Global Offensive To Defend 'Fake News' Law, had criticised government responses to foreign media stories on POFMA.

"We have never shied from answering our foreign critics on any issue. They can say what they please. All we insist upon is the right of reply," she said.

In a separate letter published by the SCMP yesterday, Ms Foo Teow Lee, Singapore's Consul-General to Hong Kong, similarly made the point that the Government has not restricted free debate through its use of POFMA, which has been invoked four times to date.

On foreign critics, she said: "All we insist upon is the right of reply. That same logic applies to POFMA."



Their rebuttals follow earlier ones by Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Foo Chi Hsia, its Ambassador to the United States Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, and Ministry of Communications and Information director for information policy Bernard Toh.

Ms Ho said the Government has written to Bloomberg as its article "still contains multiple factual errors despite three attempts to get the facts right".

She cited how the article had presented the decisions on political advertising to "suggest that these decisions had been prompted by the Singapore Government's action".

While the POFMA Code of Practice imposes transparency requirements on political advertising, it does not ban such advertisements.

Google decided on its own not to accept such advertisements in Singapore, she noted.

Facebook continued to accept such advertisements but imposed advertising transparency measures globally.

Meanwhile, Twitter banned political advertisements altogether globally.

"Three giant social media companies, three different global decisions on political advertising - yet your report linked them all with the Singapore Government and alleged 'opposition fears' over POFMA," Ms Ho said.



With online falsehoods and manipulation now a serious problem, societies everywhere look to the mainstream media, including global players like Bloomberg, to maintain high standards of integrity and objectivity, she added.

"Regrettably, in your zeal to attack a law that calls for the maintenance of such high standards, your own report has been cavalier with the truth."

In her reply to SCMP over its Dec 21 article, Singapore's Fake News Law: Protecting The Truth, Or Restricting Free Debate?, Ms Foo said the Government detailed the falsehoods and the public interest involved in each instance when it issued correction notices.

"Far from being matters of 'interpretation of statistics' or 'opinion of facts', the statements corrected were all demonstrably factually false," she wrote.

It is "telling", she said, that none of the parties who have received POFMA directions - including the Singapore Democratic Party - have appealed or taken the matter to court thus far.

"That would settle, simply and conclusively, whether the posts are opinions or facts and, if they are facts, whether they are true or false. Why have they not done this?"



She also noted that Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson, who was quoted in the SCMP article, has repeatedly declined offers to argue HRW's position and "show up the Singapore Government's errors face to face".

"We repeat here, for the fourth time, our invitation to him to debate a Singapore minister," she said. "If he is so convinced we cannot withstand HRW's withering arguments, surely he should not hesitate to accept our invitation."











Instagram expands fact-checking globally in fight against misinformation
The Straits Times, 18 Dec 2019

SAN FRANCISCO • Instagram has gone global in its fight against misinformation, expanding its third-party fact-checking network around the world.

The Facebook-owned social media platform launched a fact-checking programme in the United States early this year.

"Today's expansion is an important step in our ongoing efforts to fight misinformation on Instagram," it said in an online post on Monday. "Photo and video-based misinformation is increasingly a challenge across our industry, and something our teams have been focused on addressing," it added.

Facebook and Instagram, like other social media firms, have come under intense pressure in the US and globally for allowing misinformation to spread.

Instagram initially began working with third-party organisations in the US to help identify, review and label bogus posts.

Facebook began its version of the scheme in December 2016.



Agence France-Presse is working with Facebook's fact-checking programme in almost 30 countries and nine languages. It will now fact-check Instagram posts as well.

About 60 media outlets, including news groups and specialised fact-checkers, work worldwide on the Facebook programme.

Under the programme, content rated "false" by fact-checkers is downgraded in news feeds so fewer people will see it.

If someone tries to share a post found to be misleading or false, Facebook presents them with the fact-checked article. No posts are removed from Facebook and fact-checkers are free to choose how and what they wish to investigate.



Instagram uses the same methods. Content deemed to be false is ignored by Instagram's search or recommendation tools and is shown with a warning label if users come across it.

"When content has been rated as false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker, we reduce its distribution," Instagram said.

"It will be labelled so people can better decide for themselves what to read, trust and share."

Once a post is found to be deceptive, software searches for it across Instagram's platform to brand it accordingly.

"We use image-matching technology to find further instances of this content and apply the label," Instagram said. "If something is rated false or partly false on Facebook, starting today, we'll automatically label identical content if it is posted on Instagram (and vice versa)."

Instagram will also expand an anti-bullying feature developed earlier this year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE





POFMA no. 4: 16 Dec 2019

FACTUALLY: Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods and misleading statements in Mr Lim Tean’s FB posts of 12 December 2019
Misleading and false statements were made by Mr Lim Tean comparing Government spending on foreign and Singaporean students


Opposition politician Lim Tean told to correct Facebook posts alleging Govt spends more on foreign than local students
MOE says posts wrongly imply Govt spends more on foreign than Singaporean students
By Clement Yong, The Straits Times, 17 Dec 2019

Opposition politician Lim Tean was asked yesterday to put up correction notices on two of his Facebook posts, which the Ministry of Education (MOE) said implied wrongly that the Government spends more on foreign than on Singaporean students.

Mr Lim, who is the founder of political party People's Voice, had contrasted in two Dec 12 Facebook posts the amount of money the MOE spent on Singaporean and foreign students.

He wrote that "the total pot available for Singaporean students (is) $167 million compared to the $238 million that is spent on foreign students". He further stated: "PAP (People's Action Party) spends $167 million on grants and bursaries for Singaporeans but $238 million on foreign students??"

The "false and misleading" comparison led Education Minister Ong Ye Kung to instruct the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a correction directive to Mr Lim yesterday morning.

The directive requires Mr Lim to carry the full correction notice at the top of both Facebook posts.

It is the fourth time POFMA is being used since it came into effect two months ago.



In response, Mr Lim, who put up the correction notices at about 10pm, said he is considering his legal options.

The government notice, on its website Factually, pointed out that the $167 million cited by Mr Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students and "grossly understates MOE's total spending on Singaporean citizens for education".

It said "almost all" of MOE's annual budget of $13 billion was spent on Singaporeans. The figures of $167 million and $238 million are therefore not comparable, it added.

"The more appropriate comparison should be (the) nearly $13 billion spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels, as against the $238 million attributed to foreign students referred to by Mr Lim Tean, which is less than 2 per cent of the total education budget" it said.



The notice also said that much of MOE's budget goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities, laboratories and teaching staff, "which are either fixed or non-variable up to the medium term to provide education for Singaporean students".

It added: "A large part of the $238 million attributed to foreign students comprises these fixed and non-variable costs we have to incur anyway, whether or not we admit a small proportion of foreign students in the system."

Foreign students now make up 5 per cent of all the students, it noted.

The Straits Times has asked MOE for a breakdown of spending on Singaporean students.

When contacted, Mr Lim, who is a lawyer, said the Government's response was "absurd". "Anyone who read my post and the series of posts I made on this subject last week would have been under no mistaken impression that I was discussing the amount of money spent on grants and scholarships and not the overall spending on all Singaporean students," he told The Straits Times.



"It is clear to me that POFMA is being used by this Government ahead of the upcoming general election to silence its opponents and chill public discussion of unpopular government policies," he added.

He also said the Government was spending nearly $500 million on grants and scholarships for foreign students until it was halved to $238 million.

Before Mr Lim, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was directed last Saturday to correct two Facebook posts and an article on its website on manpower issues.

The following day, SDP posted an online letter citing news sources that it claimed backed up its allegations that more local professionals, managers, executives and technicians were being retrenched.

The SDP said it will apply to cancel the correction directions.

Directives have been issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer and the States Times Review too.

Correction notices include a link to Factually, where the Government makes corrections and clarifications on what it sees as "false and misleading" statements. But the posts do not have to be taken down.















Singapore High Commissioner to the UK rebuts Economist article on fake news law
Rather than limit free speech, it boosts quality of public discourse, she says
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Dec 2019


An Economist article on Singapore's fake news law has drawn a rebuttal from Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Foo Chi Hsia.

In a letter published on the magazine's website this week, Ms Foo stated that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) does not limit free speech - rather it enhances the quality of public discourse.

She added that the law "strengthens and safeguards proper public accountability that must necessarily underpin democracies".

"Online posts that have been corrected remain available in full, but with links to the Government's response appended," she said.

"Readers can see both and decide for themselves which is the truth. How does twinning factual replies to falsehoods limit free speech?"

Ms Foo was responding to an article published on Dec 7, which characterised POFMA as an addition to the Singapore Government's "criticism-suppressing arsenal" and referenced two recent uses of the law.

The first use of POFMA was against opposition politician Brad Bowyer, who had questioned the independence and investment decisions of Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and investment company Temasek.

The London-based Economist wrote that while Mr Bowyer's post had contained errors - on which the authorities "seized" - its main contention that the Government's investments were not as well managed as they could be "is clearly a subjective matter".

The second use of POFMA was against socio-political website States Times Review, which alleged that the Republic's elections are rigged and that the next one could "possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state".

In her letter, Ms Foo said The Economist had misrepresented the falsehoods that the Government had corrected. The States Times Review article also made false claims that the Government has arrested specific critics, she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Bowyer's post "did not only question the 'investment nous of Singapore's sovereign wealth funds', but was based on false allegations of losses that never occurred", she added.

The High Commissioner noted that fake stories have influenced British politics, "notably in the Brexit campaign".

She added that legislatures around the world have been grappling with this problem.

Singapore, as an English-speaking, multiracial and multi-religious society open to the world, is more vulnerable to the threat of online falsehoods than most, she said, reiterating a point made by the Republic's Ambassador to the United States in a recent letter to The Washington Post.

"Having observed in Britain and elsewhere the cost of doing nothing, we decided to act."

She added: "Singapore's laws are designed to meet our own context and needs. We have no ambition to set any example for other countries, but neither do we make any apologies for defending our own interests."

Separately, a Singapore Government spokesman yesterday said non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch has not responded to its invitation to debate the fake news law.



The Washington Post ran a Dec 2 article on POFMA, in which it quoted Human Rights Watch's deputy director of Asia division Phil Robertson as saying the law is designed "specifically to put Internet companies like Facebook in a headlock to comply with these rights-abusing edicts", among other things.

Singapore's Ambassador to the United States Ashok Kumar Mirpuri subsequently wrote a letter to the Post to rebut its article, which the newspaper ran parts of.

On Monday, an official from the Ministry of Communications and Information sent a letter to Mr Robertson reiterating the Government's offer to debate POFMA with him at any university forum in Singapore and livestream the exchange on Facebook.

The letter also reiterated how Human Rights Watch had been invited to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods last year.

It had originally accepted the invitation but declined after being told it would also be questioned about a report issued in December 2017, which stated that the Singapore Government was suppressing freedom of expression.

The organisation was offered eight alternative dates and the option of speaking via video-conference but repeatedly came up with excuses to decline, the official said.

Mr Robertson could not be reached by The Straits Times for comment.










Govt calls out Washington Post for 'perpetuating false allegations' over POFMA article
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Dec 2019

The Government has called out The Washington Post for "perpetuating false allegations" after the American newspaper ran only parts of a letter from Singapore's ambassador to the United States.

Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri had responded to a Dec 2 article in the online edition of the Post about Facebook complying with the Government's directive to issue a correction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) last month.

The article had pointed out that POFMA could have a "chilling effect on online free expression" and "open the door to broad government censorship", points which Mr Mirpuri rebutted.

Yesterday evening, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) made public a letter that Mr Bernard Toh, director of the ministry's information policy division, had written to The Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan.

Mr Toh had noted that the Post declined to publish Mr Mirpuri's response on the grounds that it ran only letters on articles that appeared in its print edition. The Government was then directed to the article's author, Ms Cat Zakrzewski.

But Ms Zakrzewski declined to carry the ambassador's response in full, including only a "brief quote" from the letter that ignored the crux of the reply, Mr Toh said.

"It is ironic that the Post should have responded thus, given that your article had accused us of censorship.

"By refusing to carry our letter or report it more adequately, the Post is perpetuating false allegations."

Mr Toh added that the ministry was making the letter public "in the interest of transparency".



The Post's article was published shortly after Facebook put up a notice on a post on the States Times Review page, reading: "Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singapore Government says this post has false information."

In his letter to the Post, Mr Mirpuri said censorship entails banning or suppressing offending material.

But the Government has "only required Facebook to append to the offending post a link to a factual correction. The original post remains intact", he noted.

"Readers can read it together with the Government's response, and decide for themselves which tells the truth," he said.

"This can no more have 'a chilling effect on online free expression' than your publishing this letter can stun The Washington Post into silence."

Mr Mirpuri wrote that Singapore, as an English-speaking, multiracial and multi-religious society open to the world, is more vulnerable to the threat of online falsehoods than most.

"POFMA seeks to restore balance to the debate, by requiring tech companies to carry clarifications to reach the same target audience as the false statements."

Part of this response was included in the Post's article.

Mr Toh wrote that Ms Zakrzewski had "ignored the crux of (the Government's) response: that contrary to allegations that the Singapore Government had censored a Facebook post that it deemed to be false, the original post remained intact and accessible".



The Government also issued a response to Mr Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The non-governmental organisation is headquartered in New York and investigates human rights abuses around the world.

Mr Robertson was quoted in the Post's article as saying that POFMA is designed "specifically to put Internet companies like Facebook in a headlock to comply with these rights-abusing edicts".

"With huge, onerous fines and the possibility of even prison time, it's going to be hard for any company to not comply," he said.

In a separate letter to Mr Robertson, which was also made public yesterday, Mr Toh reiterated points that Mr Mirpuri made in his response to the Post, including that Human Rights Watch had been invited to appear before the parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods last year.

The Select Committee was convened to come up with suggestions on how Singapore can tackle fake news, with the public encouraged to write in on causes, consequences and possible countermeasures.

Mr Toh noted that Human Rights Watch had originally accepted the invitation.

However, it had declined after being told it would also be questioned about a report issued in December 2017, which stated that the Singapore Government was suppressing freedom of expression.

The organisation was offered eight alternative dates and the option of speaking via videoconference, Mr Toh said, but "repeatedly came up with excuses to decline".

He added that the Government is willing to debate the issue with Human Rights Watch at any university forum in Singapore.

"To ensure full publicity for this debate, we will livestream this exchange on Facebook," Mr Toh added. "We hope that you do not refuse our invitation yet again."










POFMA no. 3: 14 Dec 2019

FACTUALLY: Corrections And Clarifications Regarding Falsehoods Posted By The Singapore Democratic Party
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) published two Facebook posts and an article on the SDP’s website regarding Singapore’s population policy that contain falsehoods.


SDP asked to correct claims of fewer local PMETs in jobs
Employment of locals has in fact increased since 2015, says MOM which initiated the corrections
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 15 Dec 2019


The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was asked yesterday to correct two of its Facebook posts and an online article that claimed local PMET employment has plunged, in the third use of the law against fake news in recent weeks.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which initiated the corrections, said employment of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has in fact increased since 2015.

Criticising the motive behind the online posts and article on Singapore's population policy, MOM said: "These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective - to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs.

"It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled," it added.

It also noted that the SDP had paid for both posts to be boosted as advertisements on Facebook. Both posts were linked to the article.

The party had recently criticised Google over its decision to stop accepting political ads in Singapore, saying it relies heavily on social media to reach out to voters.

The Sunday Times has contacted the SDP for comments.



The use of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was announced by the POFMA Office. It said it had issued three correction directions to the SDP under the instruction of Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

This means the opposition party will have to put up corrections alongside the posts and article, and link to the facts provided by MOM on the Government's fact-checking website Factually.

Among the false statements by the SDP was a graphical illustration wrongly showing local PMET employment had gone down, said MOM. Citing the Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM said the number of local PMETs employed has increased from 1.17 million in 2015 to 1.3 million this year.

Another of the falsehoods was in an article on the SDP's website titled, "SDP Population Policy: Hire S'poreans First, Retrench S'poreans last". MOM said the article contained a wrong statement claiming that "the SDP's proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched".

Contrary to this, said MOM, there has been no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment since 2015.

It added that the number of retrenched local PMETs has declined from 6,460 in 2015 to 5,360 last year, the lowest since 2014.



MOM also said local PMETs retrenched, as a proportion of all local PMET employees, has also declined since 2015.

Acknowledging the uncertain economic climate, MOM said: "It is understandable that some Singaporeans feel anxious about employment prospects and retrenchments."

But despite the economic headwinds, the economy is still creating jobs, it added. "Local PMET employment has increased consistently. There is no rising trend of retrenchment, whether amongst PMETs or otherwise," said MOM.

Given people's worries, "this makes it all the more critical that public debate on the important issue of jobs is based on accurate facts, and not distortions or falsehoods", added the ministry.

"POFMA has been used to place the facts alongside the falsehoods," said MOM.



POFMA was invoked for the first time on Nov 25, when Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer became the first person to get a correction direction over a Facebook post about investments by GIC, Temasek and other government-linked companies.

He complied on the same day.

In the other incident, the owner of the States Times Review Facebook page did not comply and Facebook was issued a direction to put up a correction on his post. Facebook complied.

In all three uses of POFMA, the recipients of the correction directions were not required to take down their posts or make edits to their content. The directions also do not impose criminal sanction, said the POFMA office.

Those who do not agree with a minister's decision can challenge it in court. An appeal can be heard in the High Court as early as nine days after a challenge is first brought to the minister. Such a challenge could cost about $200.

A correction direction is among the remedies available under the law, designed to give the Government the tools to deal with falsehoods on the Internet.

Under POFMA, websites, social media platforms and individual users can also be asked to take down the false information completely. In serious cases, people who are found to have spread falsehoods intentionally to destabilise society can be charged.

Additional reporting by Clement Yong





SDP complies with POFMA orders but will seek to cancel notices
MOM rebuts claims, says it is acting to ensure jobs debate is based on accurate facts
By Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2019

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) complied yesterday with corrections mandated by the Government on three of its online posts, which dealt with the issue of employment of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

But the opposition party said it plans to apply to cancel the correction notices, which the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it would consider if the application was submitted.



On the SDP's Facebook page, the party continued to argue its case in a letter addressed to Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, which was signed off by SDP vice-chairman John Tan.

The SDP posted the letter yesterday afternoon at about 2.30pm, in response to the correction orders, which were sent to the opposition party by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office under Mrs Teo's instruction the day before.

Then, at around 5pm, the SDP issued the correction notices, but continued to argue that the "conclusions that Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has come to are disputable".

"Under POFMA, we have to comply with the order, but we will be applying to cancel the correction directions," said the SDP.

This statement came after each of the three correction notes.

To cancel the correction direction, the SDP will have to apply to the Manpower Minister. If the application is refused, it can then file an appeal with the High Court.

The SDP has to comply with the correction direction even if its application or appeal is pending.



On Saturday, the SDP had been asked to correct two of its Facebook posts and an online article that claimed local PMET employment had plunged, in the third use of the law against fake news in recent weeks.

This meant the opposition party had to put up corrections alongside the posts and article, and link to the facts provided by the MOM on the Government's fact-checking website Factually.

The SDP, in its letter yesterday, cited a Straits Times report from March with the headline "PMETs make up rising share of retrenched locals" as one reason why it had said in its own online article that its proposal had come "amidst a rising proportion of Singapore PMETs getting retrenched".

MOM, in a rebuttal last night, said that SDP's statement was wrong.

The ST report had referred to all retrenched locals, of which there were 7,070 last year. Among them, the number of PMETs had risen.

"This is fundamentally different from what the SDP says, which is that among Singapore PMETs (1,254,000 in 2018), the number getting retrenched has risen," MOM said in its statement.

Among local PMETs, it noted, the number retrenched had declined from 6,460 in 2015 to 5,360 last year. In fact, the number last year was the lowest since 2014.

The ministry also said that it had explained in Parliament in April that because there are now more locals in PMET jobs, more of them could be affected in a retrenchment exercise.

"However, retrenchments have not been rising," it added.

MOM reiterated the two key points it had highlighted in its correction notice - that there is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment, and that local PMET employment has been increasing consistently, and continues to do so.

"This is very different from the picture painted by the SDP," it said.

"In this period of economic uncertainty, it is understandable that Singaporeans are concerned about jobs.

"MOM's objective in pointing out false and misleading statements is to ensure that public debate on the important issue of jobs is based on accurate facts."



The ministry also noted that SDP had responded to the correction directions and stated its intent to apply for their cancellation.

"We will consider the grounds of their application should it be submitted," the ministry said.

MOM had criticised the motive behind the online posts and article on Singapore's population policy.

It said on Saturday: "These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective - to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs.

"It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled."






* SDP appeals against correction notices by Manpower Ministry in first court challenge of fake news law
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 9 Jan 2020

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday filed an appeal in the High Court against correction notices issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) - the first court challenge against an order issued under the fake news law.

The party's appeal comes after Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Monday rejected its application to cancel three correction directions issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

A hearing is scheduled to take place at 10am on Jan 16, said the SDP yesterday. It added that it will not be engaging lawyers to argue the case.



The MOM said it has been informed of the SDP's appeal.

In a statement posted on its website, the SDP said it had set out its case for the cancellation of the notices in a detailed submission, and accused Mrs Teo of failing to back up her allegations in her rejection of the party's application.

"We are therefore left with no choice but to pursue the matter in the High Court. We look forward to Mrs Teo explaining her decision on the witness stand," said the party.

"The SDP would rather focus on the coming election campaign. But we have deliberated the matter at length and we undertake this legal action because, as difficult as it may be, we must stand up for our fellow Singaporeans and fight for what little space we have left in Singapore to uphold our democratic freedoms," it said.

The MOM had issued the correction directions to the SDP over two Facebook posts and an online article last month.

On Dec 2 last year, the SDP began running a series of sponsored posts on Facebook, including two about local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

Both posts were linked to an article on the SDP website titled "SDP Population Policy: Hire S'poreans First, Retrench S'poreans Last", with each accompanied by a different infographic.

One contained a graph labelled "local PMET employment" along with a downward-pointing arrow, while the other contained text that read "local PMET unemployment has increased".



On Dec 14, the ministry, on the instruction of Mrs Teo, asked the SDP to correct the posts and the article.

The MOM took issue with two claims it said were falsehoods, including the graph in the Facebook post depicting the number of Singaporean PMETs employed as having fallen sharply.

The ministry also stated that a sentence in the online article, claiming that a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs are getting retrenched, was false.

Last Thursday, the SDP defended the posts and article, saying that the statements it made "are, in fact, true and correct".

It argued, among other things, that the MOM had accused the party of making statements it did not make. The party then made an unsuccessful application last Friday to cancel the correction directions.

The fake news law has been invoked four times to date.

It costs $200 to file a court appeal against a POFMA order. There will be no charge for the first three days of the court hearing.














































Rights to free speech not hit by use of fake news law: Ministries
Law invoked twice recently, but in both cases, original posts that were corrected can still be read
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent , The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2019

The recent use of Singapore's fake news law to correct a Facebook post by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Brad Bowyer does not affect his rights to free speech, said the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) yesterday.

Their joint statement comes amid scrutiny over the use of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which has attracted media attention across the world.

Critics have raised the spectre of the law being used to squelch dissent after it was invoked twice in recent weeks, but some others have pointed out that in both instances, the original posts that were corrected have not been removed.

This was pointed out by MCI and MinLaw, which said in a statement posted on Facebook that Mr Bowyer's original Facebook post remains available for anyone to read.

After he was required to put up a correction alongside his post, he went on to issue repeated clarifications in further posts, the ministries added.

"Requiring a factual statement to be posted in order to correct a false statement does not curtail anyone's free speech," they said.



Their statement was sparked by PSP's criticism that the law falls short of the values of transparency, independence and accountability, after it was used on Mr Bowyer.

On Nov 25, he became the first person to get a correction direction under POFMA for a Facebook post about investments by GIC, Temasek and other government-linked companies.

He had to put up a note on his post as well as link it to the correct facts on the Government's fact-checking site Factually. He complied on the same day.

In the other incident, the owner of the States Times Review Facebook page did not comply and Facebook was issued a direction to put up a correction on his post.

Facebook complied.

On Tuesday, the PSP, responding to Mr Bowyer's incident for the first time, said a minister has the power to declare something as false without any "justification, criteria or standards".

"This does not measure up to the standards of transparency and accountability. And where the news involves the Government, it also fails the standard of independence," the party added.

Rebutting this, MCI and MinLaw said the law explicitly requires ministers to state why the specified statements are false and there are legal precedents on how falsehoods should be determined.

The ministries added that the law also states clearly it can be used only when clear criteria are met: If there is a false statement of fact and it affects the public interest.

"When POFMA was used recently, the reasons why the statements were false were explained clearly. Significantly, PSP and Mr Brad Bowyer do not deny that his post contained falsehoods," they noted.

They also said a minister's decision can be challenged in court "at minimal cost", setting "a high standard of accountability".



The PSP had also said that while it agrees the Government needs to be able to act swiftly to prevent fake news from going viral, it is the courts that should decide what is false and what penalties to impose for independence.

"The courts would also have an established system and precedents of determining falsehood from its handling of cases like fraud, thereby ensuring transparency and accountability," the party said.

MCI and MinLaw replied that it was untrue that ministers can impose any penalties they wish.

If a minister's direction is not complied with, only the courts can impose penalties after due process is followed and in accordance with established legal principles, the ministries added.

They also took issue with a picture in the PSP post that depicted people's mouths being taped shut.

Noting that Mr Bowyer's post remains online, the ministries said: "Readers can make up their own minds as to what is the truth.

"How has Mr Bowyer's mouth been taped? His original post remains available for anyone to read. His rights to free speech remain unaffected."

Separately, the Finance Ministry responded yesterday to a Forum letter on The Straits Times website on Monday, to explain the distinction between fact and opinion.

Letter writer Avantika Narayan said some of Mr Bowyer's claims seemed more like opinion than fact, like the recently scrapped Amaravati City project between India and Singapore.

The ministry's director of reserves & investment Lim Zhi Jian said Mr Bowyer had made several false assertions, including that a substantial part of $4 billion had been poured into the project.

Mr Lim added: "POFMA was not used against Mr Bowyer's opinion on the performance of the specific investments. Mr Bowyer is entitled to his opinion.

"But the Government has to clarify Mr Bowyer's false statements of fact, which he used to build a misleading narrative about our reserves to discredit the Government and smear the reputations of Temasek and GIC."










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