On 1 April 2019, the Singapore government tabled the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill. A group of academics expressed deep reservations about the proposed law. Parliament passed it on 8 May 2019. This section of the website is an archive of statements and commentaries, originally published as a Google Doc.
Media release, 13 April 2019
As academics with expertise, experience or interest in Singapore and Asia generally, we are concerned that the proposed legislation will have unintended detrimental consequences for scholars and research in Singapore, compromising Singapore’s notable efforts to develop itself into an internationally-recognised hub for excellence in higher education. The legislation may also set negative precedents, with knock-on effects on the global academy. – Read more
Letter to Minister for Education, 11 April 2019
The advance of knowledge derives from, and hence much of academic work focuses on, disputing apparently established “facts”. These are confirmed or denied through the process of research, and continuously reappraised as new data and analysis become available over time. Thus for many phenomena it is not possible to state definitively what is a “fact” proven for all time, and what is a conjecture or hypothesis that may turn out to be “false or misleading”. It is specifically those statements that “a reasonable person” would consider “to be a representation of fact” that are most usefully subject to rigorous academic scrutiny. – Read more
- Letter to University Presidents and Boards of Trustees, 11 April 2019
- Briefing note: Academic concerns – Linda Lim, 29 April 2019
- Queries submitted to Law Ministry, 3 May 2019
- The Straits Times, 1 October 2019: “Singapore’s fake news law to come into effect Oct 2“.
- The Atlantic, 19 July 2019: “Peter Guest: Singapore Says It’s Fighting ‘Fake News.’ Journalists See a Ruse”.
- New York Review of Books, 19 July 2019: “Salil Tripathi: Singapore: Laboratory of Digital Censorship”.
- The Nation, 30 May 2019: “Kirsten Han: Why We Challenged Singapore’s ‘Fake News’ Legislation”.
- Nature, 15 May 2019: “Singapore passes ‘fake news’ law following researcher outcry”.
- Times Higher Education, 23 April 2019: “Singapore ‘fake news’ law ‘threatens academic freedom worldwide’” (Also appears on Inside Higher Ed website)
- Academe (American Association of University Professors blog), 15 April 2019: “Singapore “Fake News” Law May Threaten Academic Freedom”.
- University World News, 15 April 2019: “Sweeping ‘fake news’ bill a risk for academic freedom”.
- AFP, 15 April 2019: “Academics concerned about Singapore’s ‘fake news’ law”.
- Straits Times, 13 April 2019: “Some scholars want academic protection reflected in fake news Bill”.
- South China Morning Post, 13 April 2019: “Dozens of university dons concerned Singapore’s anti-fake news laws will stifle academic freedom”.
Public advisory from the Ministry of Law, July 2019
“This addresses how the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act applies to counter online falsehoods. It sets out some illustrations, examples and principles, most of which have been given publicly, during discussions on this issue, including during the debate on the Act in Parliament.” – Download the PDF | Originally posted here
Education Minister’s speech in Parliament, 7 May 2019
“In our context, I can assure the House, that if it is empirical research, we will stay true to science and empirical evidence. We have always been, sometimes to a fault. And if it is an opinion-based research, we will have a rigorous public debate. Under both scenarios, POFMA does not apply in such a discourse.” – Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. Read the news report | Read the full speech | View the full speech
Small group crying wolf, but most citizens want strong laws, 6 May 2019
The Government is confident that there is broad and deep support among an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans for laws to tackle online falsehoods. The Government will continue its public education efforts so that there is an even better understanding of the Bill. – Read the article by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong.
Education Ministry’s response to letter, 12 April 2019
“The Bill covers verifiably false statements of fact which affect public interest. The Bill does not restrict opinion and will not affect academic research work. This is true regardless of what view the work presents.” – Read the news report
See also “Resources” below.
- Lee Kay Howe, 2019 – “True or False or Misleading: “[A]dequate Judicial Oversight” over Part 3 Directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act“
- Chen Siyuan and Chia Chen Wei, 2019 – “Singapore’s latest efforts at regulating online hate speech”
- Howard Lee and Terence Lee, 10 June 2019 – “Polarising Dissent: The constructed narrative of Singapore’s new ‘fake news’ law”
- Cherian George, 7 October 2019 – “Disinformation: a debate that needs to be better informed“
- Jennifer Daskal, 30 May 2019 – “This ‘Fake News’ Law Threatens Free Speech. But It Doesn’t Stop There.”
- Mohan Dutta, 20 May 2019 – “‘Fake news’ and the dangers of regulating disinformation in Singapore”
- Linda Lim, 11 May 2019 – “Singapore’s ‘fake news’ law undermines the credibility of academic expertise”
- Walter Theseira, NMP, 8 May 2019 – Full text of speech, POFMA Second Reading Debate, Parliament of Singapore
- Mohan Dutta, 6 May 2019 – “Understanding disinformation”
- Eugene Tan, 4 May 2019 – “Of facts and falsehoods”
- Cherian George, 2 May 2019 – “Calibrated legislation?”
- Teo You Yenn, 27 April 2019 – “新加坡的学术研讨自由与”假信息”法案”
- Cherian George, 26 April 2019 – “Singapore’s online falsehoods bill will deepen culture of self-censorship”
- Ian Chong, 18 April 2019 – Replies to The Straits Times, unpublished
- Teo You Yenn, 11 April 2019 – “Academic Freedom in Singapore and the ‘Fake News’ Law”
- Cherian George, 8 April 2019 – “Battling disinformation is about trust as much as truth”
- Cherian George, 5 April 2019 – “Give judges more leeway under fake news laws”
- Cherian George, 3 April 2019 – “How would the Online Falsehoods Act affect journalism? This test case could give an answer.”
- Cherian George, 2 April 2019 – “Proposed online falsehoods law will help the government deal with dangers, but will it also make the government more dangerous?”
- Cherian George, October 2018 – “Disinformation and hate campaigns”
- Cherian George, 17 August 2017 – “Journalism’s crisis of reason”
Other statements of concern
- United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression – Letter to Prime Minister
- International Commission of Jurists – Letter and Legal Briefing
- Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights – Statement
- International Studies Association – Statement
- International Political Science Association – Statement
- Gender equality group, AWARE – Statement
- Journalists – Letter to Minister for Communications and Information
- Independent media practitioners – Statement
- Arts groups and civil society organisations – Statement
- Book publishers, Ethos Books – Letter
- Foreign Correspondents Association, Singapore – Statement
- Government department responsible for administering POFMA: POFMA office
- The Bill: Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act
- Parliament debate official reports: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- Parliament debate: Second Reading Speech by Minister for Law K Shanmugam
- Parliament debate: Second Reading Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong
- 2018 Parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods