Facebook posts fake news notice at Singapore’s request

SINGAPORE, 30 Nov 2019:

Facebook has issued a correction notice for a post for the first time at the request of the Singapore authorities under a new fake news law.

The post in question had been published on the platform by the States Times Review and the notice could be seen today at the bottom of the original post: “Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information.”

The digital giant was forced to issue the correction after the Singapore government ordered the States Times Review to correct a post but the publication did not comply.

The move was backed by a recent law, dubbed the online falsehood law, which seeks to filter out fake news from the platform.

The contentious post was published on Nov 24 on the States Times Review Facebook page, which is run from Australia by Alex Tan Zhi Xiang.

Tan is a Singaporean political activist who accused the ruling party of electoral manipulation and of arresting an informant who had revealed the alleged irregularities.

The original post alleged that a “whistleblower who exposed a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate’s Christian affiliations” had been detained.

Interior minister K Shanmugam requested the correction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) – which requires the social network to publish corrections when false or misleading information is published on its platform.

Singaporean authorities branded the accusations as defamatory and false and demanded a correction from Tan – who refused to do so, alleging the page is governed by Australian law.

POFMA took the matter to Facebook and requested the tech company to issue the correction under the new law.

Facebook, which could have been fined S$1 million had it ignored the order, complied and issued the notice today.

This is the second time that Singapore used the fake news law – effective since Oct 2 – after it requested an opposition leader to issue a correction.

Brad Bowyer, a member of the Progress Singapore Party, updated a post he had published on Nov 13.

“I wish to clarify that although I have no problems in following the law, and it is fair to have both sides of the argument available for review, that does not mean that I agree with the position they are taking or admit to any false statements on my part,” Bowyer posted on Nov 27.

Opponents, activists and human rights organidations have shared concerns over the new law, which gives the government the power to decide what information is classified as false.

“As it is early days of the law coming into effect, we hope the Singapore government’s assurances that it will not impact free expression will lead to a measured and transparent approach to implementation,” a Facebook spokesman told Channel News Asia.