SINGAPORE: Swift action needs to be taken to counter falsehoods as Singapore battles to contain the Wuhan coronavirus, said Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran.
Speaking at a multi-minister task force news conference on Monday (Jan 27), Mr Iswaran made this point by citing a case involving a post on HardwareZone Forum which was viewed by 4,600 unique visitors before it was eventually taken down. The post falsely claimed that someone in Singapore had died from the virus.
The office overseeing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) issued a general correction notice to SPH Magazines over the post.
READ: POFMA Office issues correction notice to SPH Magazines over HardwareZone Forum post on Wuhan virus
SPH Magazines, which operates HardwareZone Forum, complied with the correction notice in a post on Monday which included a link to the Factually article. SPH Magazines also said that HardwareZone.com had taken down the thread earlier, "in line with its community guidelines".
For the facts of the case, the POFMA Office referred to a Factually article which said there have been no deaths among the confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus infection as of 11pm on Jan 26.
Mr Iswaran said: "Some who viewed the post would also have shared it with others and been misled by it. The Minister for Health had ascertained that there was a false statement of fact and was satisfied that it was in the public interest to issue a correction direction."
"We must take swift action against such falsehoods. Otherwise, there is a grave risk that they will spread and cause panic among our citizens. And that is why we have POFMA and we will not hesitate to use the powers under the law to take action against any party that spreads such falsehoods."
During the media conference, Mr Iswaran also responded to a question as to why a correction notice was issued only for the Hardwarezone Forum and not to other cases involving the Wuhan virus.
“It’s because that’s the case that’s so far emerged clearly with respect to the fact that there’s a false statement of fact which in this case the Minister for Health has ascertained according to our current laws and he is also satisfied that it is in the public interest to issue that correction direction," Mr Iswaran responded.
He added that if any other cases come to the Government’s attention, the same kind of evaluation would be applied and appropriate action taken.
Mr Iswaran said the aim is to keep Singaporeans informed of the facts so that they can safely navigate the online terrain, discern truth from falsehood and know what they can do to lessen the risk to themselves and their family.
He said his ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Health to regularly share important public information with citizens through multiple channels on social media and websites.
"The situation is fluid and we need the help and cooperation of the media, all Singaporeans and the residents in this critical national effort to prevent misinformation and falsehoods about the Wuhan coronavirus from sowing fear and causing panic in our society," he said.
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