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SG High Commissioner to the UK defends Pofma after The Economist calls it part of the “government’s criticism-suppressing arsenal”

"How does twinning factual replies to falsehoods limit free speech?” said Foo Chi Hsia in a succinct rebuttal to the article in the Economist

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An article on The Economist criticizing Singapore’s fake news law and calling it part of the “government’s criticism-suppressing arsenal” has drawn a rebuttal from Singapore’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom that says the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) “enhances rather than reduces the quality of public discourse”.

Published on Dec 7, the article on The Economist titled, ‘Singapore strikes its first official blows against fake news’ outlines the incident where Pofma was invoked on the blog the States Times Review. Referring to Pofma being invoked on opposition politician Brad Bowyer as well, the Economist article states that, “The hubbub over the two orders relates more to the display of pofma’s powers than to the details of the posts themselves”.

The article also states: “Facebook has said that it hopes the law will not impinge on free expression. To say it already has would presumably attract a pofma order”.

In her response, Foo Chi Hsia, Singapore’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, explained: “Online posts that have been corrected remain available in full, but with links to the government’s response appended. Readers can see both and decide for themselves which is the truth. How does twinning factual replies to falsehoods limit free speech?”

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She also noted that fake stories have influenced British politics, “notably in the Brexit campaign”.

She added that legislatures around the world have been grappling with this problem.

In concluding her letter published on the magazine’s website titled, ‘Free speech in Singapore’, she wrote: “We have no ambition to set any example for other countries, but neither do we make any apologies for defending our own interests”. /TISG

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