Five months after it was passed in Singapore Parliament, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) came into effect on Wednesday, October 2. Also came online was the POFMA office, the administrative arm of this new law, which is affiliated with Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Aiming to protect society from misinformation that harms public interests, falsehoods are defined as "statements of fact that are false or misleading" which are to be determined by the POFMA ministers, whom would then decide whether to issue editorial corrections or takedown orders coupled with fines and/or jail time. Civil rights groups, academics, and intermediaries have all voiced concerns as to POFMA's vague and broad languages and the inherent uncertainties of its future applications.
Facing dissents that the law could "chill" free speech and grant too much power to the government, the lawmakers emphasize that POFMA provides a "clear oversight mechanism" for a minister's order to be challenged through judicial review.
For now, various internet and advertising intermediaries, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Baidu, and Tencent, have been given a temporary exemption period to implement technological measures or policy adjustments to ensure compliance. We will continue to monitor as the POFMA ministers start to weigh in on what is true or false for the Singaporeans in the coming months.