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Facebook blocks Singapore users’ access to National Times Singapore page, calls government order ‘severe’

SINGAPORE — Social media giant Facebook has complied with the authorities’ instruction to block Singapore users’ access to a page that the Government said contained false statements. However, it called the order “severe”.

The National Times Singapore page has "communicated at least three false statements of fact", the Ministry of Communications and Information said.

The National Times Singapore page has "communicated at least three false statements of fact", the Ministry of Communications and Information said.

SINGAPORE — Social media giant Facebook has complied with the authorities’ instruction to block Singapore users’ access to a page that the Government said contained false statements. However, it called the order “severe”.

In a statement on Monday (June 1), Facebook said that it was “legally compelled” to restrict access to the National Times Singapore Facebook page for Singapore users, after it was issued orders by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) office on Saturday to do so.

In doing so, it also expressed its concerns about such orders.

“Blocking orders like this is severe and risk being misused to stifle voices and perspectives on the internet. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we work hard to protect and defend this important civil liberty around the world,” Facebook said.

It did not specify when it complied with the order, although checks by TODAY on Monday showed that the National Times Singapore Facebook page was not accessible in Singapore. However, it was still accessible outside of Singapore.

The order to block the National Times Singapore Facebook page came after the Ministry of Communications and Information, which oversees the Pofma office, said that the page had communicated at least three false statements of fact.

It had notified National Times Singapore on May 28 that it had been designated as a Declared Online Location (DOL), in relation to a post it had published on May 15.

A DOL is one that has carried three or more different online falsehoods which are the subject of active directions issued by the Pofma Office.

This means that the National Times Singapore Facebook page must carry a notice stating that it has been declared a DOL. Through the notice, visitors to the page will be warned that the page has a history of communicating falsehoods.

The declaration will also make it an offence for its owner Alex Tan, who claims to be an Australian living in Australia, to receive any benefits or profits from operating the Facebook page and prohibits the provision of financial support to it.

However, Mr Tan did not comply with the instruction to put up the notice, leading the Government to issue a disabling order to Facebook on Saturday.

This is the fourth Facebook page operated by Mr Tan to be subject to a disabling order.

The Facebook pages of the States Times Review, as well as Singapore States Times and Mr Tan's own page were designated DOLs on Feb 16 and May 6, respectively.

In those instances, Facebook had complied with subsequent orders by the Government to restrict access after Mr Tan failed to put up notices that his pages were DOLs.

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Facebook Pofma National Times Singapore online falsehoods Alex Tan

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