Opposition member told to correct FB post as Govt uses fake news law
Opposition party member issues correction after first use of fake news law
Mr Brad Bowyer, a member of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), has been issued a directive to correct false statements under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), the first time Singapore's law against fake news has been used.
Mr Bowyer was issued a correction direction yesterday by the Pofma Office under the instruction of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat over a Facebook post he made on Nov 13, in which he implied the Government was involved in investment decisions made by GIC and Temasek Holdings.
It required that Mr Bowyer put up in full a correction note along with his post, that remained online.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said it was necessary to clarify the false statements in the post.
"Mr Bowyer's post contains clearly false statements of fact, and undermines public trust in the Government," it said.
"GIC and Temasek operate on a commercial basis, and the Government is not involved in their individual investment decisions."
Less than three hours after issuing a correction on his Facebook, Mr Bowyer made another post claiming he did not assert some of the falsehoods.
The New Paper understands that the MOF is aware of his most recent post.
Pofma came into effect on Oct 2. It gives ministers the power to act against online falsehood when it is in the public interest to do so.
They can order that it be taken down or ask for corrections to be put up alongside.
Individuals who fail to comply with the direction can be fined up to $20,000, or jailed for up to a year, or both.
Mr Bowyer edited his Nov 13 post at about noon yesterday, saying it "contains false statements of fact".
After issuing the correction, he posted a statement on Facebook at 12.20pm that he had done so in response to the correction direction.
"I have no problem in following that request as I feel it is fair to have both points of view and clarifications and corrections of fact when necessary," he said.
But at about 2.30pm, he put up another post claiming he had not asserted some of the falsehoods, responding to each statement made by state-run webpage Factually on the case.
Factually had published an article yesterday on falsehoods in Mr Bowyer's Nov 13 post.
It listed statements by Mr Bowyer regarding the Government's involvement in the investment decisions of Temasek and GIC, the Amaravati Project in Andhra Pradesh, India, and the Salt Bae steakhouse chain.
It said Mr Bowyer's claim that $4 billion was poorly invested in the Amaravati Project by government-linked companies was false, and that costs were limited to design services that amounted to a few million dollars.
Factually also refuted Mr Bowyer's assertions that Temasek invested in the "debt-ridden" parent company which owns Salt Bae. The article said Temasek invested in D.ream International BV, which operates 60 restaurants worldwide, and not its shareholder Dogus Holding A.S, the parent company of Salt Bae.
Factually also listed clarifications to Mr Bowyer's statements regarding Keppel and Bharti Airtel.
Speaking to TNP yesterday, Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said some might feel that Pofma is a tool to quell dissent after it was used against someone in the political sphere.
But he explained that the use of Pofma on political figures is a result of the public nature of their position.
"A false or misleading statement of public interest is likely to come from someone in politics because such individuals are by the very nature of their position public and can influence the public discourse," he said.
"It shouldn't surprise us because Pofma seeks to ensure public discourse takes place with accurate facts.
"If public discourse is premised on falsehoods and inaccurate information, then society would be the ultimate loser."