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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, has drawn flak after she seemed to claim that only purveyors of fake news will object to the draft Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) that was tabled in Parliament earlier this month.

POFMA intends to give ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and to decide whether to take action against purveyors of online falsehoods.

Linking a Channel NewsAsia article covering Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s statement that POFMA has “clear oversight mechanism” to prevent abuse by the government, Ho Ching commented: “Of course, the purveyors of fake news will object, right?”

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Her comment seemed to imply that only purveyors of fake news will object to POFMA to protect their interests and that the draft bill should not be objectionable to any other person.

In a comprehensive response to Ho Ching’s argument, the administrators of Facebook group ‘NUSSU – NUS Students United’ pointed out that Ho Ching is “summoning the oft-used False Dichotomy Bogeyman favoured by the establishment.”

Asserting that the sweeping scope of POFMA and the discretionary powers it gives ministers can be objectionable to non-purveyors of fake news and that individuals can be both anti-fake news, and anti-fake news legislation, the administrators continued:

“Of course purveyors of fake news will object to the anti falsehoods law for obvious self interest. However, NON purveyors of fake news can also object to the anti falsehoods law because of the overly broad scope, huge discretionary powers granted to the executive and the potential for abuse.
“Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those who are against the anti falsehoods law are NECESSARILY purveyors or supporters of fake news, which is what the Prime Minister’s wife, and many other pro establishment persons, seem to assert or imply.
“It is entirely possible to be against BOTH fake news AND the anti falsehoods law. To assert or imply otherwise is to perpetuate a false dichotomy that has no place in a society starved of informed political discourse.”

Highlighting Ho Ching’s role as CEO of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek, the administrators asserted that it is “sad to see the Prime Minister’s wife summon the False Dichotomy Bogeyman. After all, she should know better than anyone else that a sound investment strategy can co exist with numerous investment losses and it will be a false dichotomy to assert otherwise.”

Several local and international groups have expressed their opposition to POFMA. Read some of their responses to the draft bill here:

https://theindependent.sg.sg/financial-times-calls-singapores-disturbing-fake-news-law-a-mistake/

https://theindependent.sg.sg/human-rights-watch-calls-for-immediate-withdrawal-of-singapores-proposed-fake-news-laws/

https://theindependent.sg.sg/asia-internet-coalition-says-overreaching-new-bill-on-fake-news-poses-risks-to-freedom-of-speech/

https://theindependent.sg.sg/cnn-says-singapore-has-long-controlled-both-the-media-and-online-expression/

https://www.facebook.com/nusstudentsunited/photos/a.254817735161635/340579306585477/?type=3&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARCD_DcY-fg3U1uiQs5OAlNoMFEl51HVCCZ7kR3CEH7ZOF9n1SU_hSAzfdljIBoqRiIi6GkCWT5p7owUTrnGMD-YUFEr9AgvSlZUwtctRQRcwsl7hulZmj_0uyEd6RcW_YoeKJ_uPqgPIYKUFdgTN14ytMsZWRxSKcIwC54Ffmfn2HcHQcTSXgvDrUDxj1auZHcKc-lcQZoaiezpg3Ad8ibQfroNYD1JXt6AiYQfE4vHbiMudmkorcoItRhMU8fvANruJVHkWCazKjAO5VlOeae3rutiC_ghNFDihEsDJtURZrWx2SPsp1gomCCcVVtOepqE88E-6qwmxy_r7WbesJk&__tn__=-R

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