Facebook told to put up correction as States Times page owner stays defiant

Mr Alex Tan, the editor of States Times Review, refused on Thursday to comply with an order by the Pofma Office to correct false statements in the post.
Mr Alex Tan, the editor of States Times Review, refused on Thursday to comply with an order by the Pofma Office to correct false statements in the post.PHOTOS: ST FILE, GOV.SG

He reposts false claims on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google; Facebook reviewing request

Facebook was directed yesterday to publish a correction note alongside a post on the States Times Review Facebook page, in an ongoing case under Singapore's law against fake news.

The social media giant became embroiled in it after the owner of the page, Mr Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, 32, refused to comply with a correction direction issued to him on Thursday by the Singapore Government, saying he is no longer a Singaporean.

This has sparked an investigation into Mr Tan by the office that administers the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

The Straits Times understands that Facebook is reviewing the authorities' request.

Yesterday, Mr Tan reposted the States Times Review's false claims on Twitter, Google and LinkedIn and challenged the Government to "issue Pofma orders to the social media companies".

He has said he is now an Australian citizen. The Australian High Commission here has referred the query over his citizenship to the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs.

The targeted correction direction sent to Facebook is the third correction order issued under Pofma this week, and is the first that is being issued to an Internet platform.

It requires Facebook to publish a correction notice that must be made available to all users in Singapore who access the offending STR post on the social media platform.

A correction direction, meanwhile, is issued to an individual who is responsible for the post.

 
 

The Nov 23 States Time Review post, which the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has described as "false and baseless", referred to a post on the "NUSSU - NUS Students United" Facebook page, which has since been taken down by Facebook for violating authenticity policies.

The original post by NUS Students United had questioned the suitability of People's Action Party member Rachel Ong as an election candidate, citing her religious affiliation.

In doing so, it misquoted Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and gave a wrong impression of what he said about religion and politics in Parliament.

The States Times Review post had claimed that one person had been arrested by the police, and another is being investigated over the NUS Students United post. The MHA had refuted this and said on Thursday that no one had been arrested or charged over the episode.

It is an offence not to comply with a correction direction without a reasonable excuse. A person found guilty of this can be fined up to $20,000, imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both.

A company that does not comply with a targeted correction direction can be fined up to $1 million.

Pofma, which was passed in May and came into effect on Oct 2, was invoked for the first time this week when a correction direction was issued on Monday to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer, who complied on the same day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook told to put up correction as States Times page owner stays defiant'. Print Edition | Subscribe