Forum: Pofma places greater checks on Govt than 'right of reply'

We thank Mr Cheng Shoong Tat for his feedback (Replace Pofma with 'right of reply', July 15).

In his letter, he suggested a "right of reply" can replace the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) to oblige online platforms to carry government corrections of falsehoods.

Pofma as it has been applied has done precisely that. Recipients of correction directions have been required to insert a notice against the original post, with a link to the Government's clarification.

The clarification sets out the falsehoods and facts for the public to examine, without the original post being removed.

Readers can decide for themselves which is the truth.

The correction direction can be challenged in court. In this way, Pofma places greater checks on the Government than mere "rights of reply" would.

Pofma is not the Government's only or primary means to respond to statements and arguments in the media and public sphere.

There continues to be broader efforts to engage, clarify or rebut inaccurate information, including via the website and messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram.

We agree with Mr Cheng that labelling and addressing falsehoods must be done with careful regard for context and meaning.

We hope he agrees with us that healthy public discourse must be built on an infrastructure of fact.

We note the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Pritam Singh, when asked if Pofma has affected his party's campaign in the recent general election, replied: "We have not pulled our punches. National discourse should be conducted on the basis of objective facts. If you go into a campaign with factually wrong facts, then Pofma Office can take action. Has it affected our campaign? No, it hasn't."

Bernard Toh

Director, Information Policy Division

Ministry of Communications and Information