Facebook page run by Alex Tan barred from receiving financial benefit under Pofma

This comes a day after the page was asked to put up corrections to a post in which multiple false and misleading statements were made. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The National Times Singapore Facebook page has been barred from receiving any financial benefit after it published a post with multiple false statements, at least three of which were the subject of a correction direction under Singapore's laws against fake news.

The page, run by Mr Alex Tan, was designated a Declared Online Location (DOL)by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran. The declaration takes effect Friday (May 29).

On Wednesday, the Facebook page was ordered to put up corrections to a post in which multiple false and misleading statements were made about the scope and application of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

Mr Tan did not comply.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said the page will be required to carry a notice that it has been declared a DOL. With the notice, visitors to the page will be warned about its history of communicating falsehoods.

The ministry added: "The declaration will also make it an offence for Mr Tan to derive benefit from operating the National Times Singapore Facebook page, and will prohibit the provision of financial support to it for the purposes of supporting, helping or promoting the communication of falsehoods."

On May 15, the National Times Singapore Facebook page published a post claiming, among other things, that "every criticism has been outlawed by the Singapore Government through its new Pofma legislation, where the politicians in power get to decide what is truth".

In the same Facebook post, Mr Tan, who lives in Australia, alleged that Singapore's judiciary was biased. He also claimed that Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam faced criminal charges in Malaysia.

Mr Shanmugam instructed the Pofma Office on Wednesday to issue a correction direction to the page and a targeted correction direction to Facebook.

In recent months, Mr Tan has created and operated Facebook pages "which sought to derive monetary benefits from falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society", said MCI. "These pages have been declared DOLs".

Mr Tan has been issued Pofma correction directions in relation to falsehoods conveyed on six separate occasions on his previous Facebook pages, the States Times Review and Singapore States Times. Most of the earlier falsehoods related to the Covid-19 situation, including claims that Singapore had run out of face masks.

MCI said: "So far, neither these pages nor Mr Tan have complied with any of the requirements of the Pofma directions and declarations that they have been served with."

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