SINGAPORE: The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office has been instructed to issue correction orders to The Online Citizen Asia, as well as the Facebook pages of Peoples Voice Political Party, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Sin Rak Sin Party.
The order is with regard to “false statements of fact claiming that a statement made by Dr Cheong Koon Hean at the IPS-Nathan Lectures in 2018 suggested that our population would increase to 10 million by 2030”, the POFMA Office said on Saturday (Jul 4).
“Dr Cheong made no statement suggesting that our population would increase to 10 million by 2030,” it said.
The Government has clarified Singapore’s population plans on multiple occasions, including in Parliament in March 2018, when it stated that Singapore’s total population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030, the POFMA Office added.
It also published three Factually articles - one in March and two in July - and issued a media statement by the National Population and Talent Division on the matter.
"The media statement also stated 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," the POFMA Office said.
"Despite the latest clarification, the falsehood continues to be repeated."
A targeted correction direction has also been issued to Facebook to apply a correction notice on posts with "a picture carrying the same falsehoods", it said.
The POFMA Office was instructed by the alternate authority for the Minister for National Development, permanent secretary Ow Foong Pheng.
The Act states that ministers may appoint public officers to issue orders under POFMA during an election period, which is defined as the period between the day a writ of election is issued and the close of Polling Day.
The Online Citizen Asia posted a correction on its Facebook page on Saturday night.
The SDP said in a statement on Sunday it has complied with the order by placing the correction notice as specified by MND.
"However, the conclusions that the alternate authority at the Ministry of National Development arrived at are disputable," the party said, adding that it will apply to cancel the correction directions.
READ: POFMA Office instructed to issue correction directions to Sin Rak Sin Party Facebook page, three users
The article in Factually is as follows:
Several Facebook posts – Singapore Democratic Party, The Online Citizen Asia, Sin Rak Sin Party, Lim Tean of Peoples Voice (Facebook Live video), Louis Chng, and a website article (The Online Citizen Asia) have claimed that Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive Officer of the Housing & Development Board, had confirmed that our population would go up to about 10 million by 2030. They cite a lecture by Dr Cheong at the IPS-Nathan Lectures in April 2018.
The Facebook Live video by Lim Tean of Peoples Voice also claims that the Government was planning, or had intentions, to move towards 10 million population by 2030, referencing the same lecture by Dr Cheong.
These allegations are false. Dr Cheong made no statement suggesting that our population would increase to 10 million by 2030. This is a continuation of falsehoods alleging that the Government has a population target of 10 million, which the Government has clarified.
1. The context of Dr Cheong’s lecture in 2018 was on how Singapore can continue to be a highly liveable city should living density in Singapore increase to 13,700 persons per square kilometre by 2030. Dr Cheong referred to living density, which takes into account only the land available for urban areas, and excludes land used for ports, airports, and defence, among others. It is therefore inaccurate and misleading to extrapolate a population size of 10 million by applying the living density figure to the total area of Singapore.
Two of the posts refer to a forum letter in the Straits Times in April 2018. Significantly, HDB had replied to this letter, clarifying that Dr Cheong had referred to living density and not population density (“Living density different from population density”).
2. The Government has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million.
The Government has clarified Singapore’s population plans on multiple occasions: (i) in Parliament in March 2018, when it stated that Singapore’s total population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030, (ii) in two Factually articles (“What is the aim of Government population policies?” on 4 March 2020, and “Does the Government have a population target e.g. 10 million?” on 1 July 2020), (iii) in a media statement issued by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) on 1 July 2020, and (iv) in a Factually article (“Corrections and clarifications regarding posts of falsehoods from an article by The Online Citizen Asia”) on 3 July 2020. The media statement also stated 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. Despite the latest clarification, the falsehoods continue to be repeated.