Singapore States Times and Alex Tan's Facebook pages named Declared Online Locations under Pofma

Both Facebook pages have communicated falsehoods regarding the Covid-19 virus situation in Singapore. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The Facebook pages of the Singapore States Times (SST) and its owner Alex Tan Zhi Xiang have been designated as Declared Online Locations (DOL) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) from Thursday (May 7).

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a statement on Wednesday that both pages have "repeatedly communicated numerous falsehoods, of which at least three on each page were the subject of Pofma directions from November 2019 to date".

Under Pofma, online sites which receive three correction directions for publishing falsehoods on various issues within six months can be declared a DOL.

"In recent months, both Facebook pages have communicated falsehoods regarding the Covid-19 virus situation in Singapore," said the ministry.

It added that both pages are also linked to other websites operated by Mr Tan which derive monetary benefits from publishing "falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society".

MCI said that both SST and Mr Tan have refused to comply with any of the Pofma directions issued to them.

The ministry said the pages will have to carry a notice stating that they have been designated DOLs and warning people that it has a history of communicating falsehoods, among other things.

Mr Tan can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, if he does not comply.

In addition, it is also an offence for him to profit from the page, or for anyone to provide financial support to the page for the purpose of communicating falsehoods. They can be fined up to $40,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, for doing so.

An SST Facebook post on Wednesday, on infections among staff at the community care facility at Singapore expo, contained a number of errors, said the Ministry of Defence.

Mindef said: "There has been no reported case of infections among staff under the SAF deployed to take care of Covid-19 patients at the Expo."

It added that the 20-year-old male Singaporean citizen cited by the post works under a different healthcare group and is not a full-time national serviceman as claimed by the post, but a trained nurse from a private agency.

"The Singapore States Times also claimed that none of the national servicemen deployed by the SAF at the CCF had any experience in the hospitals.

"This is again wrong. Some of them are doctors and medics with prior hospital experience," said Mindef.

"The SAF recognises the inherent risk to all its staff deployed in the CCF to care for recovering Covid-19 patients.

"Careful attention had been paid to the training and preparation of all staff to institute and maintain protocols to protect themselves against infection."

This is the second time that Facebook pages operated by Mr Tan have been designated DOLs.

The States Times Review Facebook page was named a DOL in February.

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