Prominent vlogger Nas Daily is among those (like diplomat Tommy Koh) who liked Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s video with local actress Michelle Chong. The video is regarding the recently passed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).
In her famous “Ah Lian” persona, Ms Chong interviewed the Minister about the anti-fake news law and the Minister made clarifications on what the law covers and how corrections may be issued. He confirmed that criticisms against the Government and that unknowingly “liking” or sharing possible fake news would not be covered by the law.
The video – which was created and published well before POFMA was passed – has accumulated over half a million views since it was published on Facebook on 5 May. It was also published on other video platforms like YouTube.
Mr Shanmugam touched on the video in a Facebook post he published yesterday, in which he criticised a Straits Times (ST) article for making untrue assumptions about the video.
On Sunday (19 May), the national broadsheet published a premium article, entitled ‘The art of soft sell: Political leaders changing how they communicate with public’, which noted that the Minister’s video with Chong was “light-hearted and unorthodox” despite the serious and controversial topic.
Pointing to other videos, in which the Minister has casual chats about POFMA with other television personalities, the ST article asserted that the “reaction has been mixed” and that critics “”cringed” at the unusual approach to explaining government policy.”
The ST article said, “These videos are emblematic of how Singapore’s political leaders, and more broadly the Government, have turned to different channels to explain policies and convince the electorate of their merits.”
Noting that social media has become a catalyst for new approaches politicians may use to present themselves, the ST article said that there are “potential pitfalls” to such an approach.
The writers of the article interviewed several individuals who felt that the end result could be “stiff and awkward”, oversimplify salient issues, or in Mr Shanmugam’s case, possibly come off contrary to his “no nonsense brand identity”.
Taking issue with the ST article’s take on his video with Ms Chong, Mr Shanmugam criticised the article in a Facebook post published yesterday. Asserting that the ST article made untrue assumptions and overlooked important facts, he wrote that the article “assumes that the video was intended to convey detailed points about the new online falsehoods legislation. But the video was not intended for that purpose.”
Revealing that the video is “part of a multi-faceted engagement and communications effort,” the Minister said that the Michelle CHong video was targeted to reach“those with limited time or interest and who might have wanted to know only some key points. This included people which mainstream media does not reach. And I believe we succeeded in reaching this group.”
Sharing that there has been “overwhelmingly positive” feedback to the video and that the video could have reached well over a million viewers, Mr Shanmugam said that he is “reasonably confident that the video reached more people than those who read news articles in MSM.” He added:
“For some reason, all these facts seem to have been overlooked by ST. Instead it found and highlighted the views of a few persons who didn’t like the video, or thought that it was not an appropriate way to engage. We too heard from people with such views, but they were a small number.
“We have to try out different ways to communicate policies, not least because mainstream media does not reach everyone. This is why the Ministry of Finance tried social influencers to communicate the Budget a couple of years ago. That is why the Government has stepped up ground engagement through such means as Reach, the Silver Generation Office and the Community Network for Seniors. And this is why I did the video with Michelle Chong, which went viral.
“MinLaw had earlier pointed out (but not reported by ST), that the money spent on such a non-mainstream video is a fraction of what the Government spends on advertisements in the mainstream media.”
Several individuals expressed support for the video Mr Shanmugam did with Ms Chong, including distinguished diplomat Tommy Koh. Mr Shanmugam revealed that this is the first time he had done something like this as Prof Koh said he liked the video:
Another prominent person who liked the video is Nas Daily. Nas, whose real name is Nuseir Yassin, wrote that he personally liked the video and that it reminded him “of the campaign Obama did with social media people to reach a wider audience for Obamacare.
Clarifying that he has no opinion on this matter or the anti-fake news law, Nas observed that ST’s article could be another example of how “negative comments almost always get a louder microphone than the supportive ones.”
Minister Shanmugam thanked Nas for his views and reminded him that he is not precluded from expressing his opinions about POFMA: