Facebook said it was “deeply concerned” about a Singapore government order to block access to a blog page on its social media website under a controversial fake news law. The government had ordered Facebook this week to block the States Times Review’s page in Singapore, saying the blog had repeatedly conveyed falsehoods and had not complied with any of the directions that it had been served with under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). Facebook said in an e-mailed statement it was legally compelled to restrict access to the page.
“We believe orders like this are disproportionate and contradict the government’s claim that POFMA would not be used as a censorship tool. We’ve repeatedly highlighted this law’s potential for overreach and we’re deeply concerned about the precedent this sets for the stifling of freedom of expression in Singapore,” it added. The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The States Times Review, run by Australia-based Singaporean political activist Alex Tan, is known for its outspoken, anti-establishment articles. It has been censured under the fake news law three times, most recently for articles criticising Singapore’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which the government said contained “entirely false” information.
The fake news law, seen as one of the most far-reaching of its kind, came into effect in October amid concern among rights groups and opposition politicians it could be used to silence criticism of the government. The government has denied such suggestions saying the law only tackles falsehoods and that legitimate criticism and free speech would not be affected. While most of the initial uses of the law involved political opposition figures, the government has been invoking it against misinformation about the coronavirus over the last few weeks.