SINGAPORE: The States Times Review has been ordered to correct a Facebook post in the second correction direction handed out under Singapore’s online falsehoods law, authorities said on Thursday (Nov 28).
The correction direction under the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was issued to Mr Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, a 32-year-old Singaporean who runs the States Times Review website and Facebook page.
Issued on the instruction of Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, the order requires that States Times Review carry a correction notice at the top of its Facebook post, said the POFMA Office, which is responsible for the administration of the law.
A correction direction is issued to a person who has communicated a falsehood that affects the public interest, the POFMA Office said.
It requires the recipient to publish a correction notice with the facts, but does not require the post to be taken down or edits made. The order also does not impose criminal sanctions.
The Nov 23 post by States Times Review alleged that a “whistleblower who exposed a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate’s Christian affiliations” has been arrested and that the owner of the NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook page, which published the claims about the PAP candidate, is under police investigation.
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“These claims are false and baseless,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). “No one has been arrested or charged arising from the NSU post.”
Facebook removed the NUSSU – NUS Students United page of its own accord as the page violated its authenticity policies, and the “fake accounts” linked to the page breached Facebook’s guidelines, the ministry said.
"ABSURD" ALLEGATIONS MADE ABOUT ELECTION PROCESS
The States Times Review also made other “scurrilous, absurd” allegations on Singapore’s election process, MHA said.
“Singapore’s electoral system enjoys high public trust. Elections are held regularly and contested. The electoral system and its procedures are clearly spelt out in law, and apply to all political participants, regardless of affiliation,” the ministry said.
A check by CNA on the States Times Review Facebook page at 5pm on Thursday found that the post was still up. No correction notice had been added to the post. A post on the page on Thursday morning said that States Times Review and its editor "will not comply with any order from a foreign government".
A person who fails to comply with the correction direction is guilty of an offence and can be jailed up to a year and/or fined up to S$20,000.
He may, however, challenge the Minister's decision in court, the law stipulates.
The Minister may also issue an order to Internet service providers to block access to the content in Singapore, if Mr Tan fails to correct his Facebook post.
There are further provisions in the Act to issue directions to websites, social media platforms and other online content providers to correct or disable access to the content, at the discretion of the Minister who, in this case, is Mr Shanmugam.
Mr Tan, who is based outside Singapore, is also the editor of other alternative media sites, including Temasek Review News and Singapore Herald.
“This is not the first time that these websites, as well as States Times Review, have perpetuated outright fabrications, such as misrepresenting Singapore’s position in foreign relations with other countries and casting aspersions on the integrity of public institutions,” MHA said.
The websites have previously been blocked by the Info-communications Media Development Authority for breaching its Internet Code of Practice.
Aimed at combating the spread of deliberate online falsehoods, POFMA came into effect in October, five months after it was passed in Parliament.
The correction direction issued to States Times Review is the second in four days. On Monday, the POFMA Office said it directed opposition party member Brad Bowyer to correct a Facebook post he made that questioned the independence of Temasek and GIC.