Social media giant Facebook has slammed Singapore’s anti-fake news law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), as “severe” and one that risks stifling the freedom of speech, after it was ordered to geo-block a user’s page last week.
On 27 May, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam issued a correction direction to controversial blogger Alex Tan for publishing falsehoods about POFMA in a post that was published on the National Times Singapore Facebook page that Tan runs. Tan had to put up a warning that his post contained falsehoods but refused to do so.
The POFMA office then issued a Targeted Correction Direction to Facebook, asking the social networking site to block users in Singapore from accessing Tan’s page.
In a statement on Monday (1 June), Facebook said that Singapore’s use of POFMA is “severe” and that it risks stifling free speech. Revealing that the company was “legally compelled” to comply with the Targeted Correction Direction, a Facebook spokesperson said that “blocking orders like this are severe and risk being misused to stifle voices and perspectives on the internet.”
The representative added: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we work hard to protect and defend this important civil liberty around the world.”
This is not the first time Facebook has criticised the POFMA law. While other tech giants like Google and Twitter have also expressed concerns about POFMA, the Singapore Government has held that the anti-fake news legislation is important to protect the country from falsehoods that could sow lasting discord among its people.