MCI Lifts Temporary Exemption Of Internet Intermediaries From POFMA

It has finally happened. Using the recent Wuhan Coronavirus emergency as a convenient excuse, the Singapore Government has lifted the temporary exemption of internet platforms form the POFMA requirements. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others were under this category of temporary exemption.

The move was announced by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), where it was stated that the Singapore government is lifting the temporary exemption of Facebook, Google Search, Baidu, Twitter, and HardwareZone from General Correction Direction (GCD) requirements of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). Based on POFMA, a GCD may be issued where a false statement of fact — which is determined by any minister — has been communicated in Singapore, and it is in the public interest — from the minister’s perspective — to issue the GCD. GCDs may only be issued to prescribed intermediaries.

An intermediary that receives a GCD may be required to communicate a correction notice to all users of its service in Singapore. The named internet intermediaries were given temporary exemption when POFMA took effect in October 2019. This temporary exemption will be lifted with effect from Friday (31 Jan).

With the lifting of this exemption, Facebook, Google Search, Baidu, Twitter, and HardwareZone, will be required to carry GCDs if the Act is applied to them. MCI justified the lifting of the temporary exemption by stating that this action is critical, given the evolving situation with the Wuhan Coronavirus.

According to POFMA, if the entities are issued with the direction and fail to comply with the direction, they will be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a fine of not exceeding $1 million.

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