S'pore taxi driver, 40, jailed 4 months for posting false info in private Facebook group for 15 minutes

He was punished severely to send a deterrent message.

Belmont Lay | May 30, 2020, 11:42 PM

A 40-year-old taxi driver has been jailed four months for posting false information in a private Facebook group for 15 minutes before taking it down on the advice of others.

His actions were committed around April 16 after Covid-19 circuit breaker measures kicked in for a week.

Kenneth Lai Yong Hui was in court and sentenced on May 27.

What happened

Lai saw a text message in one of his WhatsApp group chats between April 15 and 16 that was a rumour.

The message said that “disposable food container can transmit the virus” and “hawker centre and coffeeshop will be closed”.

Lai then reposted the information in the Taxiuncle Facebook group, which had 7,478 members, and embellished it with an added claim that he had “intel” from the government that “more measures” will be enforced over the weekend.

Lai wrote: “Food courts coffee shop all to close. Supermarkets will only open two days a week. Better go stock up your stuff for the next month or so. Govt officials in meeting yesterday and will finalize measures tomorrow.”

He did this even though he did not identify the sender and did not verify the information.

Several people advised Lai not to spread rumours, which prompted him to delete his post after 15 minutes of putting it up.

Someone who could identify him reported matter to police

On April 20, an individual called the police after coming across Lai’s message.

The man said he "used to book his taxi service" and identified Lai by his name, "Kenneth", to the police.

"Hope you will take up the case as his posting is irresponsible, will cause panic to fellow Singaporeans,” the man said to the police.

In court

The Deputy Public Prosecutor sought the sentence imposed, according to Today.

Lai pleaded guilty to transmitting a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act. 

The DPP argued that Lai’s post sought to “undermine the government’s continuous effort to reassure the public of the sufficiency of supplies”.

What he did posed a real risk of more panic buying, the DPP said.

Panic buying in Singapore began as early as Feb. 7 when the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level was raised to orange.

A second wave occurred on March 16 after Malaysia announced a nationwide lockdown.

On April 3, people bought more things after the circuit breaker was announced.

However, all supermarkets and eateries have remained open since the circuit breaker began on April 7.


The judge said a deterrent message should be sent to "like-minded members of the public" so that they will not engage in similar conduct.

Lai represented himself without a lawyer.

He said he was “sorry and regretful for what I have done”, Today reported.

“I know I spread something which is false. After thinking, it’s just not right. I made a promise that I will never ever do such a thing again,” he added.

After the judge passed the sentence, Lai said, “Give me a chance.” 

The judge said again that Lai had committed a “very serious offence”.

Lai could have been jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$10,000, or both.

Top photo via Unsplash