To limit false reports on Wuhan virus, Singapore tightens rules for online channels

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Singapore is clamping down on online users who have been spreading misinformation about the new coronavirus outbreak happening in Wuhan, China and other countries. — Marco Bonfanti/Canva image via TODAY
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Singapore is clamping down on online users who have been spreading misinformation about the new coronavirus outbreak happening in Wuhan, China and other countries. — Marco Bonfanti/Canva image via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Jan 31 — From today, social media companies and online channels such as , Google, Twitter, Baidu and HardwareZone will be required to carry general correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

This follows the government's move to withdraw temporary exemptions for these internet platforms.

The lifting of the exemptions was made in response to the rapidly evolving situation of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said yesterday, and because some online users here have been spreading misinformation about the disease and its impact.

Before the announcement, these online platforms were temporarily exempted from certain provisions under the law, so as to give the government more time to put in place necessary arrangements and technological measures.

On why the authorities have chosen to lift the exemptions now, MCI said: “The government is prepared to use all tools at its disposal to provide the public with accurate and up-to-date information, and to deal with falsehoods that may cause panic or confusion.

“We have worked closely with the relevant technology companies, and appreciate the industry’s support and cooperation in our national response to this challenging situation.”

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had issued a “targeted” correction direction to Facebook over posts made by two users. 

In their posts, the Facebook users alleged that Woodlands MRT Station was closed for disinfection after someone who is suspected of carrying the virus was there on January 28. However, it was not true because the station was fully operational.

A general correction direction would require internet platforms and media organisations to communicate, publish, broadcast or transmit a correction notice to their end-users in Singapore by a specified time.

This is different from a correction direction, which is issued to an individual who communicates a false statement of fact in Singapore, and requires him to put up a correction notice stating that the statement is false or where the false statement can be found, or both.

It also differs from a targeted correction direction, which is issued to internet intermediaries that provide the platform for false information to be communicated in Singapore. It requires them to put up a correction notice stating that the statement is false or where the false statement can be found, or both. — TODAY

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