SINGAPORE: The Singapore Government has required Internet service providers (ISPs) in Singapore to block access to the academic website East Asia Forum after the platform failed to properly adhere to a correction order issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office.
The geo-block, announced by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) today (16 Sept), comes three days after the correction order was served to East Asia Forum. According to the MCI, the “Access Blocking Orders” have been enacted to disable access for Singaporean end-users attempting to visit the East Asia Forum’s website, specifically the portions where false information is disseminated.
The POFMA order in question pertains to claims made in an article titled “A spate of scandals strikes Singapore,” authored by Dr Ying-Kit Chan, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore. The Government has said that the op-ed contains false statements concerning the independence of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s approach to addressing extramarital affairs among parliamentarians.
Under the correction order, East Asia Forum is required to publish a correction notice prominently at the top of the article in question, as well as on the website’s main page. However, as of 12:30 PM on Saturday, the East Asia Forum had not complied with the full requirements of the order. The Australia-based platform had posted a link to the Government’s statement in the article’s comment section at the bottom of the page.
MCI said, “Should East Asia Forum subsequently comply with the full requirements of the Correction Direction, the minister will cancel the Access Blocking Orders.”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Indranee Rajah, has also instructed the POFMA Office to issue a targeted correction directive to Facebook’s Meta Platforms concerning the East Asia Forum article. Meta will be required to publish a correction notice to Facebook users in Singapore who accessed the East Asia Forum post on August 18, which shared Dr Chan’s article.
This move to block an online publication for non-compliance with a POFMA order is not unprecedented. In June, Singapore similarly took action against Asia Sentinel after it failed to carry a correction notice as required. In May, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the Asia Sentinel article, which featured an interview with the author of a 2021 commentary on Singapore’s handling of KTV lounges during the COVID-19 pandemic, contained multiple falsehoods. Consequently, the California-registered publication remains inaccessible within Singapore.