Owner of The Online Citizen Asia’s website, social media barred from financial benefit under Pofma
The Online Citizen Asia’s (TOCA) website, Facebook page, Twitter account page and LinkedIn page have been declared Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under Singapore’s fake news law for two years, starting from Saturday.
The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said on Friday that DOLs have to comply with actions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) that would prevent their operator from financially benefiting during this period.
Also, DOLs are each required to carry a notice, stating that each of these online locations has been declared a DOL. But such declared locations do not have to stop operating, MCI added.
The declaration was made following multiple falsehoods published on these online platforms, the ministry said.
This included a Pofma direction on May 19 against false statements in an April 28 article about a death-row prisoner having no interpreter or access to legal counsel during his trial.
“A Declared Online Location will not be allowed to profit from spreading falsehoods in Singapore,” according to the Pofma website. “The public should exercise caution and do additional fact-checking if accessing Declared Online Locations for information.”
What are Declared Online Locations (DOLs)?
Under the fake news law, an online platform can be declared a DOL if it has carried three or more different false statements of fact that have been the subject of Pofma directions within six months of the declaration.
TOCA’s website, Facebook page, Twitter account page and LinkedIn page have each met the requirements to be declared DOLs.
“Members of the public are advised to be alert to TOCA’s history of communicating misinformation, and to fact-check information published at these DOLs,” said the ministry.
Service providers, such as digital advertising agencies, must also take reasonable steps to ensure their paid content on these DOLs are not available in Singapore, MCI said.
Individuals – including the public – and companies must not financially support DOLs if they know they would support, help or promote the communication of falsehoods in Singapore on the platform in doing so.
Four social media pages were previously declared DOLs.
These pages were operated by Mr Alex Tan, according to MCI. As Mr Tan did not comply with the DOL requirements, Access Disabling Orders were subsequently issued to Facebook to disable access to these pages to people in Singapore. Facebook complied with the orders.
A provision under Pofma allows the Government to order an Internet intermediary to disable access to a DOL if the owner of the DOL does not comply with the declaration and paid content on the site continues to be displayed to users here.
If an Internet intermediary fails to comply and is convicted, it can be fined up to $20,000 for each day that the government order is not fully complied with, up to a total of $500,000.
The owner or operator of the DOL, or any person with editorial control over the online location, may apply to the Minister for Communications and Information to vary or cancel the declaration. If the minister refuses the application, an appeal can be made to the High Court.