Singapore — Market research agency YouGov released the results of a new research on May 22, Thursday, showing that more than half of Singaporeans are in favour of the country’s new law designed to combat online falsehoods as well as hate speech.
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was passed in Parliament after a lengthy debate earlier this month, amid many concerns about the curtailment of freedom of speech, as well as the amount of power given to ministers in enforcing the new law.
The research demonstrates that only 18 percent, or less than one out of five, are opposed to POFMA, while more than half, or 55 percent, are in favour of and support the bill.
One-quarter of the respondents, or 25 percent, say that they are undecided regarding POFMA.
The remaining 2 percent of participants in the survey declined to indicate whether or not they are in favour of the bill.
Interestingly, POFMA has found greater support among women than among men, with 62 percent of women in favour of POFMA, versus less than half of men, or 47 percent, having the same view.
The respondents who are parents were also more inclined to support the bill, with 62 percent in favour of it. Only 52 percent of childless Singaporeans say that they supported the bill that tackles online falsehoods.
The YouGov survey also shows that knowledge about POFMA is not very widespread, despite wide media coverage and the extent of debates in public forums and online. Slightly more than half of Singaporeans (52 percent) have heard of the bill. Among the respondents, 67 percent of males and 38 percent of females had actually heard of POFMA.
The older generations of Singaporeans have higher numbers of those aware of the bill. For those who are 55 and older, 63 percent knew about POFMA. Among respondents from the ages of 18 to 24, only 34 percent knew about the bill.
According to the Head of YouGov APAC Omnibus, Jake Gammon, “With the on-going discussion about POFMA, it’s interesting to find out Singaporeans’ views of the Bill. While half of Singaporeans support the Bill, this research shows that there are divisions – particularly between men and women. But the research also shows that despite widespread coverage for the proposal, many Singaporeans have not heard of it, suggesting that more may need be done to let the public know about it.”
POFMA was passed in Parliament on May 8, after over 14 hours of debate over a period of two days.
Among the Members of Parliament, 72 voted for the Bill’s passage. The nine Workers’ Party (WP) MPs and Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) voted against it. The three Nominated Members of Parliament, Professor Walter Theseira, Irene Quay and Anthea Ong, all abstained.
Pritam Singh, the secretary-general of the WP, requested that the MPs’ votes be formally recorded.
The new law gives ministers of the government the authority to command Facebook, Twitter and other such social media sites to put warnings on posts that they have decided are false, or even take these posts down, should they find it necessary.
Should certain acts be deemed as injurious to the country’s interests as well as malicious, those found guilty could be jailed for as long as 10 years, and companies fined as much as S$1 million.
The Government has emphasized that POFMA’s aim is to protect the country from entities that would purposefully spread falsehoods and harm the public interest and that posts containing satire, parody, and opinions do not fall under the new law’s purview./ TISG