Parliament Sitting on 4 May 2020
QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
*33. Ms Tin Pei Ling: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) how many incidents of fake news pertaining to COVID-19 have been identified and reported since January 2020; (b) what actions have been taken to tackle these fake news in the midst of a public health crisis; (c) who are some of the creators of these fake news; and (d) how are they held accountable for their misbehaviours.
Since late January 2020, government agencies have clarified and debunked about 40 instances of speculation, rumours, scams, and outright falsehoods pertaining to COVID-19.
2. Amidst this crisis, our agencies have spared no effort to swiftly put out the facts, to dispel confusion and calm anxieties fomented by such falsehoods. The clarifications have been conveyed through media, on Government websites, social media, and the Gov.sg channel on WhatsApp and Telegram. Our primary focus is on ensuring that Singaporeans receive reliable and accurate information in a timely manner.
3. We have also used the powers under POFMA – the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act – to require purveyors of falsehoods to place factual corrections alongside false claims. These actions have been against Singaporeans, here or abroad, as well as some foreign parties and websites.
4. We will not hesitate to use the full force of the law against those who deliberately or maliciously purvey falsehoods. As was elaborated earlier, recently, an individual was charged in Court for claiming on Facebook that he had Government “intel” about tighter measures coming up.
5. Purveyors of falsehoods must be held accountable, but we all have a role to play in stemming the spread of false information. Especially as some may have carelessly shared misinformation. It is of utmost importance, especially at a time of crisis like this, that each and every one of us does the right thing by checking that the messages we receive come from reliable sources, and make the effort to verify a claim or piece of information before sharing it.