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Facebook issues disclaimer on States Times Review post after Alex Tan refuses correction direction

The disclaimer will only be visible to the users of the social media platform in Singapore




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Singapore — After the States Times Review’s (STR) Alex Tan Zhi Xiang refused to comply with the correction direction issued by the Singaporean government under the country’s newly-minted law against online falsehoods, POFMA, Facebook itself has issued a disclaimer on STR’s post.

The disclaimer reads, “Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singapore Government says this post has false information.”

The disclaimer, however, is only visible to the users of the social media platform in Singapore and carries a link to a government website wherein the reasons why the post contains false statements are listed.

Reuters reports Facebook saying in an emailed statement, “As required by Singapore law, Facebook applied a label to these posts, which were determined by the Singapore government to contain false information.

As it is early days of the law coming into effect, we hope the Singapore government’s assurances that it will not impact free expression will lead to a measured and transparent approach to implementation.”

Had the social media giant refused to comply with the direction under POFMA, Facebook would have been fined an amount not exceeding S$1 million. And for each succeeding day of non-compliance, an additional penalty of S$100,000 would have been meted out.

STR is a fringe new site that carries items that are decidedly against ruling People’s Action Party. Mr Tan was directed to correct statements made in a post on the STR Facebook page, as these were deemed false under Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

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The post, which was put up on November 23, involved an article about ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) activist Rachel Ong that had been on the Facebook page of Nussu-NUS Students United. This unofficial student union page of NUS, was taken down by Facebook a few days ago, after it had misquoted Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam  “as saying that a political candidate running for elections must resign from all executive positions that they hold in organisations with religious leanings”.

The correction direction issued under POFMA stated that “The Facebook post by the States Times Review (“STR“), published on 23 Nov 2019, contains false statements of fact,” since nobody has been arrested or faced with a charge because of the post from NSU.

The article from States Times Review (STR) claimed that the whistleblower who had exposed Ms Ong’s Christian affiliations had been arrested and was now facing charges; and that the owner of the NSU page that was removed is under police investigation, with Mr Shanmugam having ordered the arrest.

The correction direction made it clear that nobody has been arrested, and it was Facebook itself that removed the NSU page.

However, Mr Tan refused the correction, writing on his blog that “The site is based in Australia and it obeys only Australian jurisdiction. No foreign government orders or censorship demands will be acceded with.”

This is the second time last week that the country’s law against online falsehoods had been invoked, with the first issued last Monday, November 25, which had to do with a Facebook post from Brad Bowyer. Mr Bowyer, a former PAP member who is now with Progress Singapore Party (PSP) said he had no problem in following the request for correction as it was fair to have both points of view and clarifications and corrections of fact when necessary.-/TISG

Read related: POFMA invoked 2nd time this week—States Times Review told to correct Facebook post about PAP activist

POFMA invoked 2nd time this week—States Times Review told to correct Facebook post about PAP activist

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