Singapore: Govt invokes fake news law for the first time

(ST) – The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office has issued a correction direction to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer, in the first use of a law aimed at tackling fake news.

Initiated by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, the direction requires Mr Bowyer to include a correction notice at the top of one of his Facebook posts, the Pofma Office said in a statement on Monday (Nov 25).

The Pofma Office was referring to a post by Mr Bowyer on Nov 13, in which he commented on issues including the Government’s involvement in investment decisions by Temasek and GIC, and Keppel Corporation’s finances.

Passed in Parliament in May, Pofma kicked in on Oct 2.

In a separate statement on Monday, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said: “Mr Bowyer’s post contains clearly false statements of fact, and undermines public trust in the Government.”

MOF was referring to the two criteria that must be satisfied for Pofma to apply: one, that there must be a falsehood, defined as a statement of fact that is false or misleading; two, that it must be in the public interest for the Government to act, covering such factors as the security of Singapore and its friendly relations with other countries.

In his Facebook post, Mr Bowyer suggested that the Government was involved in the investments by Temasek and GIC.

Rejecting this association, MOF said: “It is necessary to state this for the record: GIC and Temasek operate on a commercial basis, and the Government is not involved in their individual investment decisions.”

MOF added that GIC and Temasek have made positive returns over the long term, unlike the huge financial losses that Mr Bowyer implied they would incur in his post.

By late Monday morning, Mr Bowyer included the correction note in his Facebook post, including a government link listing factual errors that he had made.