Singapore opposition member ordered to comply with fake news law

27, Nov. 2019

SINGAPORE, Kyodo – A supporter of a newly formed opposition party on Monday became the first person to be forced to make a correction on a Facebook post under Singapore's controversial anti-fake news law that came into force last month.

Brad Bowyer, 52, a member of the Progress Singapore Party who is also a vocal government critic, made an online post on Nov. 13 rapping the government for allegedly making a spate of bad overseas investments causing Singapore to lose a lot of money.

The Finance Ministry confirmed in a statement on Monday that Bowyer was issued with a “correction direction” under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.

Bowyer told Kyodo News he received an email on Monday morning ordering him to put up the correction notice, which he said “defined what I had to do and consequences of non-compliance.”

“I have no issue linking to their version of the facts, and anyway it is the law now,” he said in explaining why he immediately complied.

The offending post now has the label “CORRECTION NOTICE” on it, saying that “this post contains false statements of fact.”

It also has a link to a government website with a screenshot of his post on which the word “FALSE” is stamped, with a point-by-point rebuttal to his criticisms below the screenshot.

The law, passed by the parliament in May, gives government ministers the power to decide what is fake news and to take action in the name of protecting the public interest.

Individuals who violate the law can be fined up to S$100,000 (US$73,200) or jailed up to 10 years, or both, while companies can be slapped with fines of up to S$1 million.

One of critics' major complaints is that the new law gives too much power to ministers to decide what is fake news, while the definition of public interest is too broad.

Monday's move comes after local media reports over the weekend that Facebook has removed a fake university student group page that the government accused of misquoting Singapore's Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and trying to create discord.