Yaacob Ibrahim, Communications

Dr Yaacob: Minority caused anxiety by spreading false information during haze

While Singaporeans largely pulled together to help each other during the recent haze crisis, a minority saw fit to spread rumours and cause unnecessary anxiety, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament on Monday.

"Their impact today is far greater, because circulated virally online and through text messaging, they reach many more people than they could have in the past," he said.

He cited the example of how prominent blogger Ravi Philemon alleged that an unnamed friend said there were nine million masks being brought into Singapore, but none were for the public.

One website, The Real Singapore, also put up a post titled "We should not play the blame game over the haze problem" which was falsely attributed to Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng.

But there were many individuals who stepped up or volunteered to help distribute masks. Dr Yaacob highlighted how undergraduate Jeremy Chua set up the SG Haze Rescue page on Facebook, which brought together Singaporeans willing to help give out masks, educate the public or even open their homes to provide respite from the haze.

Responding to a question by Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng on what the Government will do if there are malicious attempts to spread untruths, Dr Yaacob said it will ask for a correction so that the right information is put up online.

He added: "It depends on the manner in which the information has been created. If it's really false, if it's really alarming, there are levers in which the Media Development Authority can take."

This includes asking the site to remove the content, under the automatic class licence acts which websites fall under.