Parliament Sitting on 2 February 2021
QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
*2. Ms He Ting Ru: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) whether the POFMA Office is taking any measures to deal with misinformation over COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines; and (b) if so, what are the measures being taken, bearing in mind the need to ensure that there will not be a chilling effect on legitimate concerns being raised.
1. Misinformation is a serious challenge in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past year, we have responded to over 60 instances of speculation, rumours, scams, and outright falsehoods pertaining to COVID-19, using a range of responses – from public communications to legislative levers, including the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.
2. A key focus of the Ministerial Task Force and our government agencies has been to provide accurate updates from trusted sources in a timely and transparent manner, to help ensure our citizens are well-informed, and to calm anxieties caused by such misinformation. For instance, we regularly convey information and clarifications through the media, on Government websites, social media, and the Gov.sg channel on WhatsApp and Telegram.
3. Public education is key to our vaccination programme. We want to strengthen our resilience against vaccine misinformation by enhancing the understanding of COVID-19 vaccines and debunking falsehoods, so that Singaporeans can make informed decisions for the safety and health of themselves, their loved ones and the community.
4. We use multiple platforms and languages to communicate essential information about the COVID-19 vaccines to all segments of our society. Over the past few weeks, vaccination information has been conveyed through print and broadcast interviews, as well as social media, direct messaging platforms, and Gov.sg. The local media has also published articles and FAQ columns to address concerns and questions about vaccines. We have also worked with major tech companies to ensure that authoritative sources, including the Ministry of Health’s website, are prominently included on their platforms.
5. As we commence the vaccination programme for seniors, community volunteers from the People’s Association, as well as Silver Generation Ambassadors, will be conducting house visits to speak to our seniors and address their queries about the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination programme.
6. We are also actively monitoring for vaccine-related misinformation. Where there is cause for action, we will not hesitate to use the full force of the law.
7. All of us have a role in stemming the spread of misinformation. We should check that the information we receive comes from reliable sources, make the effort to verify before sharing, and not share unverified information. It is vital, especially in this time of crisis, that every one of us does the right thing.