SINGAPORE – A 40-year old Singaporean taxi driver has been given a 4-month jail sentence for posting false information on a private group on Facebook for just 15 minutes.
Mr Hui received a message on a WhatsApp group chat back in mid-April that shared “disposable food container can transmit the virus,” as well as another that claimed, “hawker centre and coffeeshop will be closed.”
Mr Hui decided to repost the message he saw on the Taxiuncle Facebook group, posting “Food courts coffee shop all to close. Supermarkets will only open two days a week. Better go stock up your stuff for the next month or so. Govt officials in meeting yesterday and will finalize measures tomorrow.”
He also did not bother to confirm the information first, nor did he even know the sender of the original message, before choosing to post it on the Facebook group, which was said to have at least 7,478 members.
The report also cited that his post had been up for at least 15 minutes before he finally decided to remove it after prompting from a number of people that had seen it. They warned Mr Hui not to spread rumours about false information, but his removal came too late.
By April 20, just four days after he had posted the false news, someone else saw his post and decided to call the police. The informant even identified the driver by his name, “Kenneth,” and shared with police that he “used to book his taxi service.” The caller added, “Hope you will take up the case as his posting is irresponsible, will cause panic to fellow Singaporeans.”
Mothership.sg also shared that the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) told the courts that Mr Hui’s post worked to “undermine the government’s continuous effort to reassure the public of the sufficiency of supplies,” which has caused bursts of panic buying that started back in February when the Dorscon Level (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) was raised. Again, panic buying ensued when Malaysia announced their lockdown in March, and again in April, when the Singapore government put the country’s circuit breaker measures in place.
The DPP sought the 4-month jail sentence for Mr Hui, who ended up pleading guilty to ‘transmitting a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
Mr Hui appeared in court without a lawyer, apologetic as he said that he was “sorry and regretful for what I have done,” adding “I know I spread something which is false. After thinking, it’s just not right. I made a promise that I will never ever do such a thing again.”
Upon his sentencing, he told the judge “Give me a chance,” to which the judge told him that he had done a “very serious offence.” Rather than the four-month sentence, Hui could have gotten fined up to S$10,000 or a three-year jail sentence, or both. /TISG