Singapore officially passed its new anti-fake news law, called The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) in Parliament yesterday (May 8) with overwhelming majority from the House.
The POFMA, tabled in Parliament in April, gives the government more power to act against the spread of what it has termed as 'falsehoods'. It puts power in the hands of ministers to order the correction or removal of online content judged to the be a falsehood, but lines have been drawn on what it can act on.
In addition, it will also allow the government to impose fines of up to SGD$1m ($737,790) on tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter if they do not act swiftly to limit the spread of falsehoods by displaying corrections or removing them completely.
It will also force tech platforms to disable fake accounts operated by bots and block advertisements on fake news sites, thereby cutting off their revenue streams.
This means if a website puts out three false statements that each warranted either a correction or take-down order in a period of six months, a declaration regime can be issued against it. The site will not be shut down or punished with criminal sanctions, but its ability to profit from the published falsehoods will be cut off.
If a website has Google ads running on its site when the declaration regime is issued, Google must shut off the ads to prevent the site from receiving ad revenue in Singapore, according to reports on CNA.
The website owner must also post a notice on the site informing viewers of the declaration and will be prohibited from seeking financial assistance for the website.
Those that forward something on WhatsApp or share a post on Facebook would not be criminally liable and instead be subject to correction or removal orders, under other parts of the new law.
Members of the opposition Workers’ Party (WP), which makes up a minority of the seats in Parliament, voted against the Bill, while three Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) abstained from voting.