The Singapore government on Friday ordered social media giant Facebook to correct a post made by one of its users, marking one of the city-state’s first attempts to enforce its new law to combat so-called “fake news.”
The Singaporean minister for home affairs, K Shanmugam, said in a statement that he had instructed the office administering the law “known as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” (POFMA) to issue a Targeted Correction Direction, which requires the company to publish a correction notice on the user’s Facebook page.
The post in question had been published last Saturday on the States Times Review page, administered by blogger Alex Tan Zhi Xiang.
The post included allegations surrounding the detention of a supposed whistleblower as well as accusations of election tampering, which the Singaporean government derided as “scurrilous” and “false” claims.
The POFMA office on Thursday told Tan to correct his post, but the blogger, who has said he is an Australian citizen, refused to do so, Efe news reported.
The controversial post included the claim that, “in a bid to garner Christian support for the ruling party dictatorship and possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state, the PAP (People’s Action Party) government will be fielding a Christian evangelist in the upcoming general election.”
“The whistleblower who exposed the PAP candidate’s Christian affiliations has since been arrested, and is facing police charges for ‘fabricating fake news,’ it added.
The PAP has uninterruptedly ruled the former British colony since its independence in 1965, gaining a monopoly on power via sweeping super majorities in every single general election held over the past half century.
“POFMA Office has also commenced investigations against Mr Tan for failing to comply with the Correction Direction,” the ministry’s statement added.
Under the law, Facebook could face a fine of up to 1 million Singapore dollars (US $732,000) if it refuses to issue the correction. The company has yet to comment on the case, though the STR’s post remained published without amendments on Friday afternoon.
Facebook had previously expressed its concern over “aspects of the new law, “which it said granted “broad powers” to the executive “to compel us to remove content they deem to be false and to push a government notification to users.”
The penalties prescribed by the POFMA include up to 10 years in prison for the worst offenders.
The only previous case that fell under the Act which was passed by the legislature in May and came into effect on October 2 involved opposition leader Brad Bowyer, who quickly complied with the POFMA office’s correction request.
Several human rights groups have denounced the law as a vehicle for state imposed censorship of the Internet and an undue infringement on people’s freedom of speech.