Singapore said on Friday after a user declined a government request to do so, it had instructed Facebook to correct a post on its social media platform under a new “fake news” law.
The move, coming as the Asian city-state is preparing for an election, is the first real test of a measure that came into effect last month, fueling fears that could stifle free speech and chill dissent. But officials in government have dismissed such concerns
On Thursday, Singapore ordered blogger Alex Tan to correct his post on the Facebook State Times Review page, which made charges of arresting an alleged whistleblower and rigging elections, calling them “false” and “scurrilous.”
Tan, who doesn’t live in Singapore and claims he’s an Australian citizen, said he’s not going to fulfill the order.
The law administration office, known as the Online Falsehoods Protection and Manipulation Act (POFMA), said on Friday that it had ordered Facebook to issue the correction after Tan’s “non-compliance.”
The office had also “begun inquiries against Tan,” it said, without giving details. Facebook declined to comment and Tan’s post remained unchanged on Friday at 12 noon. Facebook had previously said that it was “concerned with aspects of the new law that give the executive branch of Singapore broad powers to pressure us to remove content that they find to be false and to demand a government notification to users
Rights groups like Human Rights Watch, based in New York, have warned that the law could threaten internet freedoms, not only in Singapore but elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
In the only other case under the law covering those inside and outside Singapore who make false statements communicated in the community, opposition political figure Brad Bowyer replied promptly to a request for correction
The punishments recommended range from 10-year jail terms or fines up to S$1 million (P37.1 million).
Though no official date has been set, Singapore, governed by the People’s Action Party since independence in 1965, is widely expected to hold a general election in months.