#GE2020 The Pofma Election (Day 05): Pofma correction directions; youthful glimmers of hope

The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts.

Pofma correction directions

Pofma is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, implemented due to concerns over the spread of fake news and misinformation. The act was passed, enacted, and commenced in 2019. That means that GE2020 is the first general election with Pofma in place.

Under the act, ministers can instruct the Pofma office to issue correction directions to those deemed to have published a false statement of fact online. Then, the party who communicated the falsehood is required to state that the falsehood was false, and to make a correction.

During the general election, the power is vested in the permanent secretaries of all 16 government ministries, in place of the ministers.

This election, five sets of Pofma correction directions have been issued.

First, on June 29th, two Facebook pages were said to have made false statements about cross-border travel arrangements between Malaysia and Singapore.

Second, on July 2nd, People’s Voice secretary-general Lim Tean was asked to correct his claim that the government spends a quarter of a billion dollars every year to provide free education for foreigners.

Third, on July 3rd, three Facebook users and a Facebook page posted screenshots of or linked to an article which falsely claimed that the Urban Redevelopment Authority released, quote “a plan to build underground infrastructure ready for 10 million population”, end-quote. One of these three Facebook users did not comply, and a Targeted Correction Direction was issued yesterday, on July 4th.

Finally, yesterday too, there were false claims that the chief executive of the Housing Development Board had suggested that Singapore’s population would increase to 10 million by 2030. A website and three Facebook pages – two of which are political parties – were issued correction directions.

There are provisions to appeal against a direction or order under Pofma. However, that has not happened, this election.

Youthful glimmers of hope

This election has felt muted and uninspiring at times. And while social media is alive with discourse and Singaporeans paying attention to every development, the bubble can seem deflating.

Even so, through GE2020 thus far, I have been speaking with young voters on policy perspectives and their constituency observations. For which party they are voting, I’m less interested. How they engaged with the election was more interesting. I wanted to learn how they were participating in, following, and evaluating the campaigns.

Beyond soundbites, it was important to document their thoughts in the middle of the election. Two young Singaporeans shared their experiences volunteering with the People’s Action Party and the Workers’ Party. Some were paying attention to the issues of the environment, education and housing, as well as lowering the voting age.

Others evaluated the online campaigns through design perspectives. Or drew attention to archival access and parliamentary representation.

You can listen to all these episodes on socialservice.sg. In listening to these conversations, I hope you too will draw strength from their enthusiasm, activism, and wisdom. And perhaps, these youthful glimmers of hope will even spark some optimism.

That’s all for today. We’ll be back tomorrow, for the Day 6 episode.

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