Forum: Onus of proving fake news should fall on Government

A photo taken on April 8, 2019, shows the Supreme Court building.
A photo taken on April 8, 2019, shows the Supreme Court building.PHOTO: ST FILE

I must disagree with Justice Belinda Ang that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) does not constrain free speech and that the onus should be on the person making the statement to show that it is true (Judge: Onus not on Govt to prove statement is false in Pofma cases, Feb 20).

Pofma may not require removal of the original statement but it forces the person to label it false even though he may not agree with the argument. It may also cause the public to think twice before posting anything not within the consensus, lest it be challenged publicly. Thus, it does constrain free speech.

Furthermore, there is a danger it may be used not only in clear cases of true or false - such as when saying a riot had occurred at a certain place when none had - but also in cases of interpretation of data. For example, we regularly see the same set of economic data interpreted by a group of analysts as the harbinger of a recession while another group sees it as positive.

For these reasons, the burden of proof should rest on the Government.

Bobby Jayaraman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'Onus of proving fake news should fall on Government'. Print Edition | Subscribe