Undergrad fined $4,000 for impersonating senior minister of state Dr Koh Poh Koon on Twitter

A computer security undergraduate impersonated a senior minister of state on Twitter and tried to dupe the public into believing the latter endorsed some educational online courses he was promoting.

Yesterday, Tan Bing Song, 26, a final-year student at the Singapore Institute of Management, was fined $4,000 for pretending to be Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon.

In 2013, Tan set up a website, Onzos, to help companies advertise their products, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sheryl Janet George. One such company was online learning platform Udemy.

Tan would sell discount coupons for its educational online courses on Onzos and receive a commission from the company when someone purchased a coupon through him.

In 2016, Tan noticed that Web traffic to Onzos was low and searched the Internet for ways to boost the website's traffic flow.

He found a guide on a monetising forum that suggested using the name and photograph of a prominent person as a marketing ploy to drive more traffic to websites.

Tan did a Google search of doctors and Dr Koh's name appeared. Dr Koh is also a colorectal surgeon.

Aware that Dr Koh is a public office holder, Tan created a Twitter account with the username DrKohKoon, and included Dr Koh's full name and photograph. He linked Onzos to the Twitter account, which was automatically updated with tweets encouraging the public to follow the website so that they would know whenever new Udemy course coupons were uploaded.

Tan's offence came to light when Dr Koh's media administrator, Mr Tee Wee Lee, lodged a police report on June 14, 2016.

Investigations revealed that no one was duped into purchasing the coupons as a result of the impersonation of Dr Koh, said DPP George.

Tan has since shut down the Twitter account.