Facebook, Twitter and HardwareZone forum comply with Pofma directive over 'S'pore variant' claims

The platforms will be required to carry a correction notice to all their users in Singapore. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Facebook, Twitter and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) said on Thursday (May 20) that they had complied with a correction direction under Singapore's fake news law and put up notices on their platforms for their users in Singapore.

This was after the Ministry of Health invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) in response to a statement circulating online claiming that there is a new variant of Covid-19 which originated in the Republic.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung instructed the Pofma Office to issue a correction direction to Facebook, Twitter and the HardwareZone forum owned by SPH Magazines, said MOH in a press release early on Thursday morning.

"The Ministry of Health is aware of a false statement circulating online by multiple media outlets and social media platforms, which implies that a new, previously unknown variant of Covid-19 originated in Singapore and/or risks spreading to India from Singapore," the ministry's statement said.

It added that there is no new Singapore variant of Covid-19 and that there is also no evidence of any Covid-19 variant that is "extremely dangerous for kids".

"The strain that is prevalent in many of the Covid-19 cases detected in Singapore in recent weeks is the B16172 variant, which originated in India," it added.

A Facebook spokesman told The Straits Times: "We've carefully reviewed the direction and are legally compelled to issue a correction notice from the Singapore Government to all people using Facebook in Singapore."

ST understands that Facebook will carry the notice as a prompt via users' news feeds.

A spokesman from Twitter said: "Following a thorough assessment, Twitter determined this request was applicable under local law within Singapore, and the company has complied.

"In line with our values around openness, transparency and trust, this request will be reflected in Singapore's section of the Twitter Transparency Report, which we publish twice-yearly," she added.

Twitter said that the Pofma correction will be carried as a notification to the platform's Singapore-based users.

The notification includes a tweet from the Singapore Government stating that it is legally required.

SPH said: "SPH Magazines has complied with the Pofma office recommendations to put up the notice in HardwareZone forum by 1.20am this morning."

The post which first carried the false statements originated on Twitter.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a Twitter post in Hindi, had called on India's government to cancel flights with Singapore.

He claimed a "new form of corona" from the country could cause a third wave of infections in India.

His remarks were carried by several news outlets including the Hindustan Times and NDTV, a broadcaster in India.

Earlier in the week, both MOH and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued statements on claims by a politician in India regarding the supposed new variant.

MOH said in a statement on Tuesday that there was no truth to his claims while MFA stated that it "regrets the unfounded assertions" made by Mr Kejriwal on social media.

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