POFMA NOTICE ON “FALSE STATEMENT OF FACT”
Visitors to this website may by chance come across a “Correction Notice” displayed prominently on this website calling attention to a “false statement of fact” made in an article previously published here. Please understand that if and when such a Correction Notice appears, we are compelled under Singapore law to publish it. We foresee that the Correction Notice will state that our previous statement of fact was false and our website will be required to carry a corrected statement of fact.
Singapore law at present gives full powers to any government minister to call out any online statement of fact as ‘false’ under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), putting in motion a sequence of enforcement actions, including requiring the website having published the “false statement of fact” to acknowledge its falsehood and to carry a specified correction to the statement of fact on its website.
We expect that the legal powers of issuing “Correction Notices” under POFMA may on occasion be invoked against websites like ours if the powers-that-be decide we had made a “false statement of fact” which is “likely to diminish public confidence in the performance of any duty or function of, or in the exercise of any power by, the Government, an Organ of State, a statutory board… (or a part thereof).” This is one and the most likely of six grounds of “effect” of any such statement that would trigger the use of powers under POFMA to prohibit the communication of suspected “false statement of fact”.
Those of you familiar with articles on our website know that we at TWC2 are first and foremost befrienders to our constituency, the transient workers in Singapore, listening to and retelling their stories of their trials and tribulations in working in Singapore. In a way, we strive to give voice to the workers in a language foreign to them and a working environment not usually kind and considerate to them even in the best of times. These stories of the workers form the backdrop of many articles on the TWC2 website.
In real life, truth and falsehood are rarely binary and cannot be so easily delineated between being simply ‘true’ or ‘false’. Two parties to a conversation may recall the conversation differently, two observers of an incident may describe it differently, and two different people may perceive the same event differently. What our worker clients tell TWC2 may be different from what they tell the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), or what we understand from words spoken by a worker is different from the understanding of an MOM official.
Migrant workers are highly conscious of the power MOM officials have over their lives – their right to work, their right of stay, their chances of obtaining remedy are all dependent on administrative decisions – and it should come as no surprise that workers can be very strategic about what to reveal to MOM or what to emphasise. With befrienders like TWC2, we have reason to believe the same workers would be more open and honest when speaking to us. To us, a worker may spill his/her guts out on how an MOM official was handling the case, or the rude manner in which he/she was spoken to, but the worker would know it is foolish to make an issue of it to MOM itself. Likewise, a worker might have related to us in exhaustive detail the problems with his/her employment, but held back by choosing only to mention the most pressing issue when lodging a formal complaint at MOM.
Historically, this has been the most common type of disagreement we have had with MOM on articles appearing on our website. We faithfully capture the story told to us by a worker in an article, only to be told later by MOM that that is not the version they have on record. Under the new powers under POFMA, any arm of the government including MOM has the legal tools to demand a denunciation or excision of our published version from this website and the public record.
If and when we are issued a “Correction Notice” under POFMA relating to any published article on this website, we will simply do the needful to obey the law, state as required that there is a “false statement of fact”, and carry out any other directives including publishing a government-specified revised version of the statement of fact.