Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen presented the report from the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on the death of Corporal First Class Dave Lee in Parliament. The report noted that inadequate on-site casualty management and delayed evacuation to the medical centre were the likely reasons for CFC Dave Lee succumbing to his heat stroke injuries.
In the Channel News Asia Facebook video which showed Dr Ng's speech in Parliament, majority of the comments were critical of the incident and questioned what could have been done better to prevent the loss of the life.
However, you also see comments such as ones by Rosna, who shared that she is glad as a mother of two kids, that Singapore Armed Forces is taking actions and doing thorough investigations. "The organisation is so big, mistakes are bound to happen. The silver lining to all these is that at least changes will be implemented." (But just to say, the family of Dominique Lee shared that the circumstances of how medical treatment was delayed are somewhat the same.)
In any case, on another Facebook post on Today Online, you can see Rosna making comments in support of MINDEF.
And you have Saravanan Kumar supporting her post. (View Saravan's Facebook profile here)
Also at Today Online but in another Facebook post (see featured image), Rosna is sharing how good is it to see the ministry taking a firm and transparent approach in addressing the death of CFC Dave Lee.
Also further down on the same Facebook post.
Then at Straits Times on the same issue, Rosna is again praising MINDEF.
With all the various posts made by Rosna, it is hard to believe that a mother of two, chanced upon the news on her social media feed and decided to go to all the mainstream media fan page to show her support to MINDEF.
If you look into her Facebook page, you will notice that it does not seem to be a typical Facebook account of a local resident. The account was just created in March this year and the account only likes social-political or cause-based Fanpages.
Other than Rosna, you can see other accounts such as Liam Lee, going on the defensive for MINDEF on the MSM Facebook pages.
Liam Lee is a Facebook account that has only five friends who are not Singaporeans and just created in June this year. And above, you also saw how Liam Lee supported Rosna's view on MINDEF's actions.
All the accounts share the same traits, recently created and only subscribe to social-political sites and news outlets. And one has to note that other than all these accounts, there are no voices in support of MINDEF and how positive they are in hearing what was shared by Dr Ng from the COI report.
In the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods earlier this year, much emphasis has been placed on fake Facebook and Twitter accounts generating fake discourse and how it will create divides and conflict within the populace. But as someone who spends most of his time on the social media, I don't see that happening or any possibility of it being so. What I do see, is as shown above, is the high possibility of state-sanctioned astroturfing which attempts to create a positive image for the government in the event of a crisis, which I think is paid via tax-payers' monies.
This is different from a PR exercise to better manage the image of the government (which is normal), this is blatant lying to the citizens.
Of course, I will stand corrected if these accounts are real (but from any one's point of view, they are accounts created to fulfill a purpose and not to socialise). Will the government call Facebook to look into these accounts and others to confirm if they are held by real individuals? Or will they play a silent game, hoping no one will call them out?
I share the same views as Prof Thum Ping Tjin that history has told us that historically, there has only been one body that has peddled falsehoods — the People’s Action Party Government, which has been spreading “fake news” about Operation Coldstore, for example, “for narrow party-political gain”.
Update: All the accounts mentioned above have been suspended or deactivated.