Today, Singapore's communications minister spoke about the new law against fake news and said it turned out to be a great “coincidence” that the only ones hit by it are dissenting political figures.
The new law against false news
Despite the different concerns of opposition politicians, the POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) law came into effect since October last year.
The law works by placing “fake news” tags on posts, very similar to the Facebook system that has been proving problematic in recent months.
The government promised that this law only covers false news without any verified basis – so, in theory, opinions and other political discourses should not be affected by it. However, the opposition was concerned that this is a mechanism to censor criticism, especially since the country is close to holding a general election.
“Everything has been a great coincidence”
The law has been applied three times since it was issued, and all cases have been against politicians or parties opposed to the government. Although the content is still available on the web, it should now carry a large banner that says that it's “false.”
Singapore's communications minister, S. Iswaran, was questioned by a parliament member about the possible arbitrary use of the law.
“The first POFMA actions seem to have been issued against individuals who are politicians or are affiliated with political parties. I would say that is a convergence; some might say an unfortunate convergence or coincidence. But whatever the case, that is the current situation, but it does not mean that this will be the situation in the future,” was the minister's response.
However, this is not the answer the opposition was waiting for. The Singapore Democratic Party has already appealed the decision, and if they do not obtain favorable results, they are willing to take legal action against the decision, which would be a precedent for the POFMA since it was put into operation.