Olympic gold-medallist Joseph Schooling has expressed support for the recently passed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), citing his experience of being misrepresented in advertisements he had no part of.
POFMA is an anti-fake news law that was passed in Parliament last week, after a fierce debate that took place over two days.
The vote to pass the bill was not unanimous – in the final division, all nine Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarians rejected the bill while Nominated MPs (NMPs) Anthea Ong, Walter Theseira and Irene Quay abstained from voting. 72 MPs supported the bill.
The new law, which will provide the government with powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest, intends to give ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and whether to take action.
Calling himself a “victim of fake news,” Schooling wrote on social media that he sees the importance of dealing with online falsehoods. Acknowledging that there is “lots of ongoing debate” about POFMA, in a Facebook post published last Thursday, Schooling wrote:
“Just last year, there were online advertisements going around with the headlines “Schooling Reveals His Genius Wealth Strategies” and “What Schooling Is Doing With All His Wealth”. I was completely stumped when I came to know about it.
“These perpetrators misused my name and images to spread falsehoods. I never endorsed any of these advertisements – and I was really worried that my friends would be duped into investing, thinking that I made a fortune through these schemes.”
Urging his followers to “say no to falsehoods,” Schooling wrote that it is “scary just thinking about the consequences of such untruths going around, and how much damage it could have done to me, my friends and family.”
Revealing that he is well-read on how other nations have been impacted by fake news, Schooling added that the extent of the damage falsehoods can cause can be hefty.
It is unclear whether POFMA will be able to protect Schooling against companies misrepresenting him in advertisements he has no part of. It is also curious that Schooling would call himself a “victim of fake news” since his own testimony suggested that he is a victim of misleading advertising rather than fake news.
Schooling would likely not even need fake news legislation to protect himself against misleading advertising since he could report such errant companies to the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) or the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) which would take action against purveyors of misleading advertising.
While some netizens praised Schooling’s views on the anti-fake news law, others suggested that he could be confused about what POFMA really is about: