On 16 and 17 January 2020, Singapore’s High Court heard the Singapore Democratic Party’s appeal against three Correction Directions that the government issued to the SDP late last year. The hearing marks the first time a direction issued under the country’s controversial Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act has been challenged in court.
The Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo, issued the underlying Directions in December 2019 over statements the SDP made on Facebook and its website some two weeks to six months earlier concerning employment trends in Singapore. …
The start of 2020 has seen a flurry of activity concerning the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.
On 1 January, the States Times Review applied to the Minister for Home Affairs to cancel the Correction Direction issued in November to Alex Tan — the controversial Facebook page’s owner. The States Times Review added in a post on the same day that it would “be applying to the High Court to repeal” the Direction.
The November Direction sought to address claims the States Times Review made in a post about a whistleblower, religion, and politics. Tan did not comply, which led the government to issue a Targeted Correction Direction to Facebook. The platform consequently appended a correction notice to the post. …
On 16 December 2019, Singapore’s Minister for Education, Ong Ye Kung, instructed the POFMA Office to issue a Correction Direction to opposition politician Lim Tean over statements he made in Facebook posts about the government’s education policy.
Lim, who last year founded the People’s Voice Party, made a post on 12 December comparing the amounts available to foreign and local students for grants, bursaries and scholarships. He addressed the issue again in another post later that day.
Lim has complied with the Direction. Both his posts now contain “correction notices” stating that they contain “false statements of fact” and redirecting readers to an article on the government’s Factually website. …
On 14 December 2019, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo, instructed the POFMA Office to issue three Correction Directions to the Singapore Democratic Party. The Directions concern statements the SDP made in an online article and two Facebook posts.
The SDP published its online article, titled “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans Last”, on 8 June of this year. It highlights the party’s proposals for reform and criticises the government’s existing policy for its allegedly adverse effect on the local workforce.
The SDP’s Facebook posts, which cover similar topics, link to the article. They are dated 30 November and 2 December, respectively (the latter is inaccessible on the party’s Facebook page, but can be located via the platform’s Ad Library — see advertisement IDs 448944535808974 and 2787195114676171). …
On 28 November 2019, Minister for Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, instructed the POFMA Office to issue a Correction Direction to Alex Tan Zhi Xiang in respect of a post on his controversial States Times Review Facebook page. The Ministry of Home Affairs and POFMA Office’s press releases can be found here and here, respectively.
The Direction requires that Tan include a correction notice at the top of his Facebook post of 23 November, which claimed that police had arrested and charged a whistleblower who had made disclosures about a potential People’s Action Party candidate’s religious affiliations. The post also appears to claim that the owner of the now-defunct NUSSU-NUS Students United Facebook page is the whistleblower. …
On 25 November 2019, the POFMA Office acted on instructions from the Minister for Finance, Heng Swee Keat, to issue a Correction Direction to Progress Singapore Party politician Brad Bowyer. The POFMA Office and Ministry of Finance’s statements to this effect can be found here and here, respectively.
The issuance of the Correction Direction marks the first time the government has used the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act since the legislation came into effect earlier this year.
The Correction Direction pertains to Bowyer’s Facebook post of 13 November 2019 criticising investment and commercial decisions that Temasek, GIC, and other government-linked companies made. …
On 7 October 2019, the Ministry of Law tabled three bills in Parliament with a view to restructuring the court system. If passed, they would entail amendments to the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019.
The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill, the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Bill, and the Judges’ Remuneration (Amendment) Bill would create General and Appellate Divisions of the High Court. The Appellate Division would hear certain civil appeals from the General Division. The Court of Appeal would also be able to transfer civil cases to and from the Appellate Division.
The government states that the Bills “seek to refine our judicial system to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of court processes. […] The reforms are being introduced against the backdrop of a growth in the number of appeals, and an increase in the complexity of the matters that have come before the Court of Appeal in recent years”. …
POFMA Watch’s Google Alert indicated that the government’s POFMA Office website went online on or about 3 October 2019. POFMA Watch tweeted about it belatedly on 6 October 2019. This post adds to the record of that event.
The POFMA Office is responsible for the administration of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019. It is part of the Infocomm Media Development Authority, which is the “Competent Authority” under the Act. Functionally speaking, the Office:
Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 went live as of 2 October 2019 following the government’s commencement notification to that effect.
The government also issued a series of other notifications, appointments regulations, orders, and rules relating to POFMA in recent days. This post tries to piece it all together.
On 30 September 2019, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat used his powers under the Constitution to issue two notifications amending ministers’ responsibilities with effect from that day:
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 will come into operation from 2 October 2019. The Minister for Communications and Information issued the relevant notification on 30 September 2019, approximately five months after Parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, and four months after the President signed it into law. The Government Gazette published the notification on 1 October 2019.
The Minister appointed the Info-Communications Media Development Authority as the “Competent Authority” for POFMA purposes. This appointment means the IMDA will be the executive body responsible for issuing the majority of the directions, orders, notices, and other communications made under the Act. The Gazette published the appointment on 1 October 2019. …