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Govt 'will not hesitate to use the full force of the law' on vaccine-related misinformation: Iswaran

Govt 'will not hesitate to use the full force of the law' on vaccine-related misinformation: Iswaran

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tanjong Pagar Community Centre on Jan 27, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: The Government is “actively monitoring” misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and it “will not hesitate to use the full force of the law” when needed, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Tuesday (Feb 2).

Over the past year, the Government has responded to more than 60 instances of speculation, rumours, scams and outright falsehoods about the novel coronavirus through a range of actions.

They included public communications to legislative levers, including the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

“Misinformation is a serious challenge in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr Iswaran, in response to a question by Member of Parliament He Ting Ru (WP-Sengkang) on whether the POFMA office was taking any measures to deal with misinformation about COVID-19 and related vaccines.

READ: Government has debunked 40 instances of fake news on COVID-19: Iswaran

The minister said providing Singaporeans with accurate updates from trusted sources in a timely and transparent manner was a key focus of the Government.

For example, information and clarifications are regularly conveyed through the media, Government websites, social media and the Gov.sg channel on WhatsApp and Telegram channels.

When it comes to the vaccination programme, public education is key, said Mr Iswaran.

Essential information about the COVID-19 vaccines are already being communicated over multiple platforms and languages to reach all segments of the society.

The Government has also worked with major tech firms to ensure that authoritative sources, including the Ministry of Health’s website, are prominently included on their platforms.

READ: 'Steady wave' of fake news on coronavirus in the region: Facebook fact-checker

As the vaccination programme for seniors gets under way, community volunteers from the People’s Association and the Silver Generation Ambassadors will conduct house visits to address questions that the seniors may have about the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination programme.

“We want to strengthen our resilience against vaccine misinformation by enhancing the understanding of COVID-19 vaccines and debunking falsehoods, so that Singaporeans can make informed decisions for the safety and health of themselves, their loved ones and the community,” said Mr Iswaran.

He added: "We are also actively monitoring for vaccine-related misinformation; where there is cause for action, we will not hesitate to use the full force of the law."

The minister stressed that the public has a responsibility to stem the spread of misinformation.

“We should check that the information we receive comes from reliable sources, make the effort to verify before sharing, and not share unverified information,” he said.

“It is vital, especially in this time of crisis, that every one of us does the right thing.”

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Source: CNA/sk
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