The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) does not disadvantage the alternative parties but instead “encourages greater democracy” as it gives more information to readers, said the Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Sunday (21 June).
In an interview with the programme In Conversation on Sunday – the video was uploaded on Channels News Asia’s Facebook page on Monday (22 June) – the host, Diana Ser asked Mr Shanmugam’s opinion on the critics that claimed POFMA is disadvantaging the alternatives.
He replied, “I don’t understand that because of two reasons.”
The first reason that Mr Shanmugam highlighted was that POFMA orders only require recipients to put up a health warning that notifies readers what has been said is untrue and provides a link to the facts.
“It doesn’t disadvantage you. You put it up, let readers judge,” Mr Shanmugam asserted.
He noted that readers are able to compare both the recipient’s original information and the correction notice as the original content will not be removed from the recipient’s website.
“So this actually encourages greater democracy because it encourages more information. You can argue censorship only if your article is taken down, but your article is there. So what are you embarrassed about?” said the Minister.
Brad Bowyer, who is a member of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) was directed to correct a Facebook post in November last year, which the Ministry of Finance claimed that his post implied the Government was involved in individual investment decisions of GIC and Temasek.
Citing Mr Bowyer’s case, Mr Shanmugam noted that individuals who are issued with POFMA are “embarrassed” to carry a health warning that says the information is untrue and they “don’t like being exposed”.
“They want to be able to say untrue things, make people angry without being pointed out. They don’t like being exposed,” he added.
The second reason that Mr Shanmugam highlighted was that people have the right to challenge POFMA orders in court and that they are encouraged to “argue based on policies and facts”.
“You can be as hard as you like on the Government policies, on the Government in your viewpoints. You can offer counter policies. POFMA cannot apply to any of that.
“It’s only when you say that … specific facts are not true or you put out lies, then you’re required to carry a health warning. I don’t see that as an issue,” he said.
When he was asked about potential voters backlash due to their perception of POFMA, the Minister noted that he believes the majority of people will understand that the Government has to do what it believes is right.
“I think by and large, the voters know that now that POFMA has been in operation for a while and the orders have been made, they’ve seen how they operate,” he stated.
Mr Shanmugam indicated that only “a small minority” who “genuinely do not know enough” about POFMA and therefore concerned.
“There are some who know full well, but are cynical and cynically trying to put out further lies about POFMA,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Shanmugam clarified that those who only forwarded the information usually will not be issued POFMA.
“By and large, the people who forward would not be the people who would have to carry that unless they have, as I say, websites and so on. The originate of the information is a person that will have to think seriously about this,” he remarked.