Facebook on Tuesday blocked the page of an anti-government website in Singapore following a demand from authorities but slammed the “disproportionate” use of a controversial law against online misinformation.
The widely criticised legislation gives ministers powers to order internet platforms and websites to put warnings next to posts they deem false, and also order pages be blocked in the tightly regulated city-state.
Political website States Times Review (STR) — which regularly posts articles critical of the government — was repeatedly accused of circulating falsehoods but refused to comply with official demands to put up corrections.
Authorities this week ordered Facebook to block the page for Singapore users. While they have ordered corrections be put up next to posts on several occasions, this was the first time they sought to have access to a page disabled.
Confirming it complied with the order, Facebook said it was “legally compelled” to restrict access to the page in Singapore.
But a spokesperson added: “We believe orders like this are disproportionate and contradict the government’s claim that (the law) would not be used as a censorship tool.
“We’ve repeatedly highlighted this law’s potential for overreach and we’re deeply concerned about the precedent this sets for the stifling of freedom of expression in Singapore.”
A post on the STR’s Facebook page said it was shutting but redirected users to an alternative page where the site’s content was available.
Other tech giants, including Google and Twitter, as well as rights groups have expressed concerns about the Singapore law.
But the government insists the legislation is necessary to stop the spread of falsehoods online, and had accused the STR of circulating misinformation, including about the coronavirus outbreak.
Singapore has reported 77 cases of the virus, which has killed hundreds and infected tens of thousands in China.
The website had been run by Alex Tan, who says he is an Australian citizen based overseas.
It is the second time that Facebook has taken action under the law. In November, the social network put up a correction next to one of Tan’s posts after an official demand.