Singapore States Times ordered to correct post alleging students, teachers contracted coronavirus in schools

The post that alleged that schools have been the source of infections for at least 50 students is false. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - An online post that alleged that schools have been the source of infections for at least 50 students is false, said the Government as it invoked the fake news law against a Facebook page that suggested this.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office on Tuesday (May 5) to issue correction directions to the Singapore States Times (SST) Facebook page and Mr Alex Tan, as well as a targeted correction direction to Facebook.

The SST Facebook page published a post on May 4 stating that Mr Ong was responsible for numerous infections in schools, and that "at least 50 students and teachers were already infected", when schools were closed on April 3.

This post was shared by Mr Tan, who runs the page.

However, the Government said that none of the infected students and staff in Ministry of Education (MOE) schools - including institutes of higher learning - had contracted the virus in schools.

By April 3, there were 69 students and staff who had been infected with Covid-19, said the Government on its fact-checking website, Factually.

"Based on contact tracing and investigations by MOH, all the cases (except for three which are still unlinked) were attributed to transmission via overseas travel, within households, social settings, and a non-school workplace (for a part-time student)," it added.

If MOE had decided to close schools early, lives would have been disrupted significantly and the impact on students from vulnerable backgrounds would have been immense, said the Government.

The Pofma directives would require Mr Tan and the SST page to publish a correction notice and provide access to the correct facts. Facebook would also be required to communicate a correction notice to all users in Singapore who access the falsehood through its platform.

Mr Tan, who lives in Australia, has ignored at least four correction directions in the past, the most recent of which was in April, when he published a post on the SST Facebook page falsely claiming that quarantined foreign workers will not be paid their salaries.

He also runs the States Times Review Facebook page, which was blocked in February after repeatedly posting falsehoods and refusing to post corrections or comply with the law.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.