Singapore tells Facebook to block critical site

Published: 08:04 PM, 17 Feb, 2020
Singapore tells Facebook to block critical site
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Singapore Monday ordered Facebook to block the page of an anti-government website in the city-state, the latest use of a law against online misinformation that critics say stifles free speech.

The legislation gives ministers powers to order internet platforms and websites to put warnings next to posts they deem false, as well as order pages blocked from users in the tightly-regulated city.

While most have complied with the directives, political website States Times Review (STR) -- which regularly posts articles critical of the government -- has refused to obey any of them.

A statement from the information minister said Facebook had been told to block Singaporean users' access to the STR page, as it had "repeatedly conveyed falsehoods" and not complied with orders to correct posts.

Authorities have asked users to put up corrections next to posts on several occasions but this is the first time they have sought to block a Facebook page. On Friday, the government had ordered the site to warn readers of its Facebook page that it regularly posts falsehoods, but it failed to do so.

The site has been accused of circulating misinformation on several occasions, including last week when authorities said it was posting falsehoods about the coronavirus outbreak. Singapore has reported 77 cases of the virus, which has killed hundreds and infected tens of thousands in China.

The website is run by Alex Tan, who says he is an Australian citizen based overseas. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in November the social network put up a correction next to one of Tan's posts following a government request.

It comes as speculation mounts elections could be called within months, although a weak opposition is seen as no match for the ruling party. Singapore's government, which regularly faces criticism for curbing civil liberties, insists the legislation is necessary to stop the spread of damaging falsehoods online.

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