December 16, 2019 / 4:19 AM / a month ago

Singapore opposition party corrects posts under 'fake news' law

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A small Singapore opposition party has corrected online posts critical of the government following an order by the labor ministry under a new ‘fake news’ law that rights groups say is being used to chill dissent.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Seeking to stir support ahead of a parliamentary election expected within months, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which has no seats in parliament, posted articles in recent months on its website and Facebook arguing that an increasing number of white-collar workers were losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) ordered the SDP to place a correction notice on these posts because it said jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) had been steadily rising since 2015.

“CORRECTION NOTICE: This post contains a false statement of fact” was subsequently placed above the posts with a link to a government webpage where “the correct facts” could be found.

The SDP said it had complied but would appeal the order, the most severe since the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) came into effect in October.

The MOM said it would consider the grounds of SDP’s application when submitted.

In the latest use of the law, the Ministry of Education on Monday directed opposition politician Lim Tean to correct a Facebook post about foreign students receiving more government funding than local students.

Reuters could not immediately reach Lim Tean.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an association of internet and technology companies, has called the law the “most far-reaching legislation of its kind to date”.

Facebook has said it was concerned the law grants broad powers to the government.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a press freedom non-profit rights group, called the law “totalitarian” and said it was aimed at eliminating public debate.

The government says the city-state is vulnerable to misleading and inaccurate news because of social sensitivities arising from its mixed ethnic and religious population, and widespread internet access.

Singapore, which has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since independence in 1965, is widely expected to win comfortably the elections, which must be held by early 2021.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Joe Brock & Simon Cameron-Moore

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