Singapore—On Thursday, November 28, Alex Tan Zhi Xiang of the Facebook page States Times Review was directed to correct statements made in a post on its page, as these were deemed false under Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), passed earlier this year.
The post, which was put up on November 23 and amended on November 28, involved a post 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, 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 states, “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.
“These claims are false and baseless.
No one has been arrested or charged arising from the NSU post. The Government did not request that Facebook take down the NSU post or disable the page. It was Facebook which removed the page on its own accord. As reported by the Singapore media on 23 Nov 2019, Facebook did so as the NSU page violated authenticity policies, and the fake accounts linked to the page failed Facebook’s community and authenticity guidelines.”
Furthermore, it also addressed the “scurrilous accusations” that STR made against the Prime Minister, the Elections Department, and the country’s election process.
“Parliamentary elections in Singapore are governed by the Parliamentary Elections Act. The law provides for a clear and transparent framework which ensures the integrity of the elections. By way of example, there are equal opportunities for all political participants, regardless of party affiliation, to observe and monitor the election process. After the close of polls, the presiding officer is required to secure the ballot boxes and the Candidates or their agents may affix their own seals. Before vote counting even begins, Candidates and their counting agents are allowed to witness the opening of each ballot box and the taking out of the papers therein. Candidates and their counting agents can also be present during the counting of the votes and raise objections on the validity of any vote.”
As of the writing of this article, the only update made on the STR Facebook page was this addition at the beginning: “Update (28 Nov): The Singapore government claimed that no arrest was made. This runs in contrary to the tip off we received.”
This is the second time this week that the country’s law against online falsehoods has 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