Blogger In Show-Down With Singapore Government As New Law Comes Into Force

A blogger is defying the Singapore government, refusing to ‘correct’ a Facebook post alleging election-rigging.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), passed earlier this year, bans people from spreading ‘a statement of fact that is false or misleading’. Penalties include fines and jail terms.

And it’s now been invoked against Alex Tang, editor of the States Times Review, for a Facebook page in which he claimed that a whistleblower had been arrested and another was being investigated by the police for making claims about the government.

This, says the government, is untrue.

“No one has been arrested or charged arising from the NSU post. The Government did not request that Facebook take down the NSU post or disable the page. It was Facebook which removed the page on its own accord,” it says in a statement.

“As reported by the Singapore media on 23 Nov 2019, Facebook did so as the NSU page violated authenticity policies, and the fake accounts linked to the page failed Facebook’s community and authenticity guidelines.” However, Tan is standing firm. “I am happy to go to 10 years’ jail for it, so there shall be no compliance. I will defy and resist every unjust law,” he says.

“We have not received any request from the Australian Federal Police or the authorities to take down any article. States Times Review and its editor, who is now a citizen of Australia, will not comply with any order from a foreign government like North Korea or Singapore.”

Earlier this week, politician Brad Bowyer became the first person to fall foul of the law and, under pressure, ‘corrected’ a Facebook post suggesting that the government was involved in certain companies’ investment decisions.

Human rights groups have seen these problems coming, with Human Rights Watch pointing out earlier this year that POFMA authorized the Singapore government to order ‘corrections’ to online content hosted anywhere in the world, just as long as it was accessible in Singapore.

However, there’s a bit of a Streisand effect going on, says Tan.

“I would like to begin by thanking the Singapore government for bringing more site traffic to States Times Review,” he posted on Facebook earlier today.

“More Singaporeans now have access to independent Singapore news content, that are free from government censorship, as opposed to the 154th-ranking state media.”