Fake News in Singapore 2020

Since POFMA came into effect, there have been 8 correction directions issued (as of 28 January 2020), with three of these directions and a blocking order in the past week (22-28 January).

What fake news happened in 2020?

According to the POFMA office’s media centre, these correction directions were issued.

28 January 2020: To Facebook (by Minister for Transport)

Falsehood:

Two Facebook users who alleged that Woodlands MRT station was closed for disinfection because there was a suspect case of the Wuhan Coronavirus.

Fact:

Woodlands MRT was not closed on 28 January 2020; it was fully operational. https://www.gov.sg/article/factually-clarifications-on-falsehoods-on-woodlands-mrt-closure

Consequence:

Facebook is required to carry a Correction Notice on the two Facebook posts which contained the falsehood.

What can readers do:

Check unverified sources of information against credible sources like http://go.gov.sg/wuhanadvisory

27 January 2020: To SPH Magazines Pte. Ltd which runs HardwareZone Forum (by Minister for Health)

Falsehood:

At 5.50pm on 26 Jan 2020, a HardwareZone Forum post claimed that a 66 year old man died in Singapore from a newly identified virus that caused him to develop severe pneumonia.

Fact:

As of 11pm on 26 Jan 2020, there have been no deaths among confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus infection. www.gov.sg/article/factually-clarifications-on-falsehoods-posted-on-hardware-zone-forum-post

Consequence:

HardwareZone is required to carry the Correction Notice to all end-users in Singapore who use HardwareZone.com.

What can readers do:

Check unverified sources of information against credible sources like https://www.moh.gov.sg/2019-ncov-wuhan

22 January 2020: To Malaysia-based Lawyers for Liberty or LFL, and sharers Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen or TOC and Yahoo Singapore (by Minister for Home Affairs)

Falsehood:

On 16 January 2020, LFL made a statement about the use of unlawful methods in judicial executions conducted in Changi Prison below.

“prison officers were instructed to carry out the following brutal procedure whenever the rope breaks during a hanging, which happens from time to time.
a) The prison officer is instructed to pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him.
b) Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.
c) The first officer must then kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it.
d) The officers are told to kick the back of the neck because that would be consistent with death by hanging.
e) The officers are told not to kick more than 2 times, so that there will be no tell-tale marks in case there is an autopsy.
f) Strict orders are also given not to divulge the above to other prison staff not involved in executions.”

According to the MHA press release, LFL also made spurious allegations that:
– prison officers were “given special training to carry out the brutal execution method”,
– that the Singapore Government approved of these “unlawful methods”,
– and suggested that specific measures were adopted to cover up these methods.

Fact:

MHA says these allegations are entirely unfounded. No effort is spared to ensure that all judicial executions in Singapore are carried out in strict compliance with the law. All judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others.

The law also requires a Coroner (who is a Judicial Officer of the State Courts) to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to satisfy himself that the execution was carried out duly and properly.

For the record, the rope used for judicial executions Page 2 of 2 has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any “special training to carry out the brutal execution method” as alleged.

Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with. MHA statements say these allegations of misconduct follow a series of sensational and untrue stories previously published by LFL. LFL has been publishing various falsehoods to seek attention in hopes of getting Malaysian prisoners, who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty.

Those who traffic drugs in Singapore, harm and destroy the lives of countless Singaporeans. These traffickers must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions. Issuance of Correction Direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (“POFMA”)
https://www.gov.sg/article/factually-clarifications-on-falsehoods-posted-by-lawyers-for-liberty

Consequence:

The Correction Direction issued to LFL had required the facts to be juxtaposed against the falsehoods, so that end-users in Singapore can read both versions and draw their own conclusions. LFL chose not to comply.

On 22 January 2020, the Minister for Communications and Information has directed the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to issue Access Blocking Orders which requires internet access service providers to disable access for end-users in Singapore to the online location where the falsehood was communicated.

If LFL subsequently carries the required Correction Notice as specified in the Correction Direction, the Minister will cancel the Access Blocking Orders.

Kirsten Han’s Facebook post that shared LFL’s statement, TOC’s online article that contained the falsehoods and Yahoo Singapore’s Facebook post which shared an article that contained the falsehoods were required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods.

Development:

LFL subsequently sued Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on 24 January 2020 in KL, Malaysia, claiming the correction order was “an attempt by Singapore to encroach upon, or to crack down (on) freedom of speech in Malaysia and impose its fake news Act on Malaysians”.

What can readers do:

Consider our options – if there are falsehoods created by other countries to destabilise Singapore, what can we do to counter these fake news?

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