Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; Nikkei Asian Review

Singapore’s ruling party government has issued a censorship order on Facebook requiring them to block users from Singapore from accessing the Facebook page of States Times Review (STR).

The new censorship order under the controversial Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) law, was enforced after STR writer Alex Tan refused to comply with three earlier censorship orders under the same Act.

The social media giant has not yet responded to the Singapore government demands, but Facebook is held at ransom because it has invested over US$1 billion building a data center in Singapore.

The Ministry for Communications and Information has since threatened that Facebook faces a fine up to S$500,000 if it does not ban the States Times Review Facebook page:

“If an Internet intermediary fails to comply and is convicted, it can be fined up to $20,000 for each day that the government order is not fully complied with, up to a total of $500,000.”

Minister for Communications and Information, S. Iswaran, had earlier accused Alex Tan for profiteering from “fake news”:

“The STR Facebook page is linked to other websites operated by Mr Tan which derive monetary benefits from publishing falsehoods at the expense of Singaporeans and our society.”

According to the Singapore minister, Alex Tan faces up to 3 years’ jail and a S$40,000 fine for refusing to comply with each of 3 POFMA orders. He faces a further 3 years’ jail and a S$40,000 fine for “profiting from the page”. The totalled 12 years’ jail and S$120,000 fine is ten times more serious than voluntarily causing physical hurt and molest charges.

Among the fake news charges include one where STR published a news stating that there is a face mask shortage in Singapore – which the government vehemently denied. The popular Singapore website also reported of price increases at government-owned supermarkets, NTUC, which the government again denied.

Alex Tan, an Australian and Singaporean dual citizenship holder, has since responded to the POFMA order on Facebook by declaring the shut down of States Times Review. The Real Singapore has since taken over the website and Facebook page, with the Facebook url now changed.