Coronavirus: Govt debunks fake news on Singaporeans contracting the virus and Singapore running out of masks

The latest correction orders came after the Government invoked the law twice earlier in relation to the virus. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - No Singaporean contracted the Wuhan coronavirus without going to China and Singapore has not run out of masks, said the Government on Friday (Jan 31) as it invoked Singapore's law against fake news for the third and fourth time in relation to the virus.

On Thursday, a website called AB-TC City News published an article that claimed that five Singaporeans had contracted the Wuhan coronavirus without going to China. The article was subsequently shared by opposition party leader and lawyer Lim Tean and the Facebook group Say No To PAP via their Facebook pages.

On Friday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong ordered City News, Mr Lim and Say No To PAP to issue corrections notices with the article.

"While both parties have taken down their Facebook posts containing the falsehood, they are still required to carry a correction notice on their respective Facebook pages. This will ensure that persons who had viewed their posts are informed of the facts," said the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office in a statement.

In a separate case, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing instructed the Pofma office to issue a correction direction to Mr Alex Tan and a targeted correction direction to Facebook on Friday for a post that Mr Tan made on his States Times Review Facebook page which falsely claimed that Singapore had run out of face masks.

Mr Tan, founder and editor of States Times Review, was an opposition party member and is now an Australian citizen.

In November last year, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam issued a Pofma correction direction to Mr Tan regarding a post on the States Times Review Facebook page on Nov 23 about People's Action Party member Rachel Ong and a Nussu-NUS Students United Facebook post. Mr Tan's application in January to cancel the correction notice was rejected.

The latest correction orders on Friday came after the Government invoked the law twice earlier this week.

On Monday, SPH Magazines was asked to correct an online post on the HardwareZone forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the Wuhan virus infection. The company had earlier taken down the thread, in line with its community guidelines, and also complied with the order.

On Tuesday, the Government invoked Pofma against Facebook to correct two posts that told people to avoid Woodlands MRT station, claiming a suspected case was discovered there. The posts, put up by different accounts, also falsely claimed the station was closed for disinfection.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran also warned on Monday that swift action would be taken against such falsehoods, as they could cause panic among Singaporeans.

On Friday, temporary Pofma exemptions on several Internet intermediaries - including Google, Baidu, Facebook and Twitter - were lifted amid a spread of fake news, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said on Thursday.

This means that these search engines and social media platforms must now comply with general correction directions under the fake news law.


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