Facebook concerned by Singapore page block request

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Facebook has said it is concerned by the Singaporean government’s decision to demand that it blocks access to a news website’s Facebook page. According to the government, the States Times Review has broken fake news laws and has repeatedly published false information. The Singaporean government issued the demand under its new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation bill (POFMA) which was introduced in October.

Facebook said that while it was legally obliged to block access to the page inside the country it found the decision to be very concerning. It said that the law could be used to curtail freedom of expression. From the Singaporean government’s perspective, the law is needed to tackle fake news which may lead to racial and religious hatred between sections of society.

It's unclear where Facebook draws the line between its own efforts to remove fake news and the Singaporean government's, however, it seems to believe the latter's campaign may overreach and censor news that's critical of the government.

Commenting on the matter, Facebook said:

“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.”

The States Times Review wrote a story back in January claiming that Singapore had run out of face masks, a product many in the country had been seeking to buy with the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The government, however, said that the country had enough supplies and ordered the States Times Review to issue a correction which lets readers know that the information is false. The site failed to comply with this directive which ultimately led it to ask Facebook to ban the page.

Interestingly enough, Facebook Asia Pacific operations are run from Singapore and it previously spent a billion Singaporean dollars (720,000,000 USD) to build a new data centre in the country which is due to open in 2022. If it had not complied with the law, it would have faced a fine of up to S$20,000 (14,000 USD) per day with a maximum cap of S$500,000 (360,000 USD).

Source: BBC News

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