Facebook declines S'pore govt request to take down States Times Review post linking PM Lee with 1MDB

Ministry of Law said this shows Facebook cannot be relied upon to protect Singapore from deliberate online falsehoods.

Belmont Lay | November 10, 2018, 01:16 AM

Facebook has declined requests made by the authorities in Singapore to take down a post by anti-establishment website States Times Review linking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with the 1MDB investigations.

This was revealed by the Ministry of Law late on Friday night, Nov. 9.

Legislation needed, Ministry of Law said

The Ministry of Law said in a press statement: "Facebook has declined to take down a post that is clearly false, defamatory and attacks Singapore, using falsehoods."

"This shows why we need legislation to protect us from deliberate online falsehoods."

False article denounced repeatedly

According to the ministry, Sarawak Report and its editor Clare Rewcastle Brown have issued two statements to denounce STR's claim as false.

STR had written that Singapore will be the next target of the 1MDB investigation, making it appear such a development was sourced from Sarawak Report.

Many Malaysian publications then picked up the STR article, which the Monetary Authority of Singapore described as "baseless" and proceeded to report the matter to the police.

This led the Malaysian publications to take down their versions, after Singapore's High Commission in Malaysia issued a clarification to say it was "false and libellous".

Facebook's refusal shows it cannot be relied upon

Given these developments, Facebook's refusal to remove the post has been labelled as one that does not do Singapore favours.

The Ministry of Law further added in its statement: "But Facebook does not feel all this is sufficient grounds for it to remove the post. FB cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign."

STR shut down

Earlier on Friday, the Infocomm Media and Development Authority ordered STR to take down the false article by 5pm.

STR refused to comply.

IMDA had also sought Facebook's help in denying access to the offending article's post.

Subsequently, the STR website became inaccessible from Singapore at about 9pm as local IP addresses were blocked.

Attempts to view the site only carried the following message: "The website that you are trying to access is unavailable as it contains prohibited material."

STR founder Alex Tan then said he was shutting the site down.