Singapore invokes 'Fake News' law for the first time over Facebook post

Brad Bowyer's post contains clearly false statements of fact, and undermines public trust in the Government, says the ministry of finance.

The Singapore government has, for the first time, invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). A directive of correction has been issued under the Act, which is aimed at tackling fake news, to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer over his Facebook post dated November 13.
Fake news
Screenshot of corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods posted by Mr Brad Bowyer in a Facebook post

Brad Bowyer's Facebook post

GIC investment

Brad Bowyer, member of People's Voice Party (PVP) in a Facebook post dated November 13, leveled allegations on the government over influencing investment decisions of the state-owned Temasek Holdings and GIC. Citing three cases, he questioned the companies' investments in Bharti Airtel, an Indian telecom company, Salt Bae chain of restaurants and Amravati city project in India.

Bowyer questioned GIC's investment in Bharti Airtel at a time when 'Singtel was upping its stake' in the debt-ridden company from 39% to 52%. 'And of course it recently got hit with a court ruling that it owes the Indian government over Sgd$17 billion in licence fees... Which financial media speculates could have a knock on effect of wiping 4 or 5% off Singtels share value', he said.

He questioned Temasek investment in Salt Bae chain of restaurants, after its owner firm Dogus Holding was faced with huge pile of debt which it's finding hard to repay. 'Salt Bae is a mess and a growing loss..', he said in his post.

He questioned the $4 billion Amravati city project that was recently shelved by the new state government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where the project was to be built. He questioned GIC's investment in the project, exclaiming 'India has not been so good an investment choice after all'.

Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) invoked

On Monday, the office of the Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat issued a correction direction to Bowyer under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma). By late Monday morning, Bowyer included the correction note in his Facebook post, including the government link citing factual errors that he made, Reuters reported.

The Ministry of Finance (MoF), in a separate statement, denounced Bowyer's allegations, stating: "Mr Bowyer's post contains clearly false statements of fact, and undermines public trust in the Government". "It is necessary to state this for the record: GIC and Temasek operate on a commercial basis, and the Government is not involved in their individual investment decisions", the statement read. In the statement, the government issued corrections and clarification in all the three investments by the government companies, cited in Bowyer's Facebook post.

Global financial hub

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The skyline of the central business district in Singapore Reuters

POFMA came into effect on October 2, this year aims to fight fake news, which Singapore says, it's highly vulnerable to due to its position as a global financial hub, its mixed ethnic and religious population and widespread internet access. The said Act allows the government to quickly remove malicious falsehoods that could hurt public interest, such as by damaging Singapore's security, foreign relations, public peace, health, safety and finances.

Related topics : Fake news