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The States Times Review (STR) were ordered to display a Declared Online Location (DOL) on its Facebook page.
The States Times Review (STR) were ordered to display a Declared Online Location (DOL) on its Facebook page.

SINGAPORE: A news portal’s Facebook page will carry a notice stating that it was designated as a Declared Online Location (DOL) as a warning to visitors that the page has a history of communicating falsehoods.

This is the first time Singapore has taken such an action, with cooperation from Facebook, under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

The action was taken against The States Times Review (STR), a day after  Health Minister Gan Kim Yong ordered that the page be served a correction direction for a post containing false claims about the Covid-19 situation, said TODAYonline.

“The declaration will also make it an offence for its owner, Alex Tan, to receive any benefits from operating the Facebook page and prohibit the provision of financial support to it for the purposes of supporting, helping or promoting the communication of falsehoods,” said the portal.

DOL may include website and webpages  defined as online locations that have carried three or more online falsehoods that are the subject of active directions by Pofma Office.

The latest correction direction is the third time it was issued to the STR Facebook page since November.

On Nov 17, a correction direction was given to the  Facebook page after it put up a post that claimed one person was arrested and another investigated by the police for revealing the religious affiliation of People’s Action Party member Rachel Ong in a post on the Nussu-NUS Students United Facebook page.

The portal also quoted a Communications and Information Ministry (MCI) statement saying: “Besides ‘spreading falsehoods’ on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore, the page is also linked to other websites operated by Mr Tan that derive monetary benefits from these falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society.”

The Online Citizen (TOC) portal said Facebook compiled with the correction direction, posting a notice on the Facebook page stating “Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singaporean government says this post has false information” and provided a link to the government’s Factually website.

However, Tan, a Singaporean based in Australia, said STR would not comply with the direction because the “article remains factual”.

In a separate Facebook post, Tan made rebuttals over the alleged falsehoods, saying “as a political exile, the editor of STR will never comply with any Pofma order”.

The posting in question was on Feb 13 using the headline “Minister Josephine Teo: 600 Chinese workers have entered Singapore, more are coming”. Teo is manpower minister.

TOC said the STR website was earlier blocked by Singapore internet service providers for refusing to remove an article entitled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” (Nov 5, 2018).

The article claimed that editor-in-chief of Sarawak Report portal, Clare Rewcastle Brown, mentioned Singapore as “one of the key investigation targets, alongside Switzerland and United States” in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal during an interview with Malaysian media.

MCI ordered the article to be taken down by Nov 9, followed by a warning from the Infocomm Media Development Authority that it will “direct internet service providers to restrict access to the site” should STR fail to remove the offending article from its website.

It notified that it “also asked Facebook to deny access to the post” linked to the offending article.

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