X Limits Visibility of Far-Away Tweet by Opposition Politician; The Rise of the Ministry of Truth Ahead of Elections

–‘The repost of the original post must be further pinned such that it appears as the top-most post on your profile page’: Singapore’s order to user of X/Twitter
–X declines to say so far how widely the visibility is limited

Reporting and opinion by Mathew Carr

Oct. 6, 2023 — X has limited the visibility of a Tweet sent by an opposition leader in Singapore, who was travelling in Britain at the time he sent it.

“Please note that under Singapore law, Twitter is required to limit the Tweet’s visibility,” X told Kenneth Jeyaretnam on Aug. 30 by email, as deplatforming controversies spring up around the world ahead of several key elections to be held by the end of next year.  The Singapore law is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act [Footnote] (FICA).

Jeyaretnam, leader of the Reform party that’s slightly left of centre, was required to “pin” a corrective Tweet to the top of his feed until Sept. 27. He has similar orders for this website, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Last month, when you visited his sites to to see what’s going on with him / see what he’s saying, you didn’t first see his messages, you first see the version of truth favored by the politicians he’s competing against for high office.

Further, the first thing you see is someone criticising him, damaging his reputation.

His critics have the first word on what you read.

Singapore is walking a fine line between misinformation management and censorship as it navigates diplomatic ties with both China and the US. Managing misinformation can easily turn into a campaign against voices of dissent.

Here is the order:

 X (Formerly known as “Twitter”)

 CORRECTION NOTICE: This post contains falsehoods. For the correct facts, click here: https://www.gov.sg/article/factually300823-a
  • The repost of the original post must be further pinned such that it appears as the top-most post on your profile page until 27 Sep 2023, 2359hrs (GMT+8).


Cowardly silence, yet pretends to lead?

Photo Credit: Elon Musk at X; he’s the billionaire owner of the influential social media company

Here is one of the corrections as it appeared, the one pinned on X: (WordPress — my software for publishing — has stopped allowing me to embed Tweets into my stories, by the way. You can still click the link).


How the correction notices looked: x / Twitter


(for more – see the notes below)

Jeyaretnam says the orders are designed to keep the ruling People’s Action Party of Singapore in office and prevent the country from progressing to a more competitive democracy. The PAP has governed the country for more than 60 years and holds almost all of the seats in parliament.

“They want to impose their own version of history,” he told me by phone. “POFMA is not being used to correct misinformation, but to prevent those in power from being unseated.”

I asked Singapore about the legal basis of its orders and whether it had a good reason for seeking to limit free speech and opinions this way. It’s not clear whether the visibility of the Tweet is limited only in Singapore, or beyond.

Here are some of the questions I asked, edited:

When Singapore requests that Twitter /X limit visibility, is that visibility limited only for Twitter customers located in the relevant jurisdiction [ie Singapore]? If X limits visibility more widely, on what basis does it do so?

Are you at POFMA comfortable requiring sanctions, even when the Tweets are sent from, say, Britain? 

If so, why? Is the key point that creates jurisdiction the location that an X user was in when they first signed up for an [X] account? Or something else? 

Are you comfortable with social media users being given only a few minutes / hours to comply? eg when those users might be travelling or on holidays or caring for a sick relative?

Oh and  …Wouldn’t it be logical for a person to use a VPN [virtual private network] to sign up for an account in, say, America to gain protection from the First Amendment of the US constitution? Would that mean the person only need get sanctioned if those sanctions are levelled by the US authorities? Or perhaps people could simply switch to some other jurisdiction’s rules?

What’s at stake is no less than who gets to decide the truth. The POFMA office responded by email Oct. 2 and on Oct. 6 it said some more answers might be forthcoming, I bolded and enlarged a key sentence from what I got so far:

“POFMA’s primary tools to counter online falsehoods are the correction directions which require recipients to insert a notice against the original post, with a link to the Government’s clarification. The clarification sets out the falsehoods and facts for the public to examine, without the original post being removed.

Readers can read both the original post and the facts, and decide for themselves what is the truth.

POFMA directions can only be issued if:

  • A false statement of fact has been or is being communicated in Singapore through the Internet; and
  • It is in the public interest to issue the direction.

You may wish to refer to the following for a better understanding on how POFMA is applied:

Not all the links work … and the search function on the POFMA website does not seem to work, either.

Jeyaretnam and his father the late Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam have been fighting for improved governance in Singapore for more than 50 years. The small city state is still an important country because it’s seen as a template for sustainable and peaceful development in Asia.

A report published earlier this year by the Cambridge University said implementation of the nation’s disinformation laws in 2019 will be closely watched around the world.

“The advent of the POFMA and FICA makes Singapore a global leader in the implementation of legal measures to combat the scourge of online misinformation, and the legal framework of these statutes is likely to be of considerable interest to a worldwide audience,” it said.

I approached X/Twitter (also see above) and Facebook/Meta about the legal basis for their actions. I’ll update if I hear from them.

Censorship is important because there’ll be a continuous string of elections including in the US, the UK and Singapore potentially next year or soon after.

Facebook/ Meta in 2020 established an Oversight Board, which in August overturned Meta’s original decisions to remove the posts of three Turkish media organisations, all containing a similar video of a politician confronting another in public, using the term “İngiliz uşağı”, which translates as “servant of the British”.

‘You are a servant of the British,’ is OK to say

“The Board finds that the term is not hate speech under Meta’s policies,” was the ruling. See more here.

Back in Singapore, Jeyaretnam is far from alone in being unhappy with what he regards as suppression of free speech and a deliberate system to damage the reputation of those who speak out or merely criticise status quo entities / people.

Ravi MRavi, a lawyer activist campaigning to improve bus-driver working conditions and to end the death sentence in Singapore for drug trafficking, has been sanctioned by Meta’s Facebook.

Facebook isn’t being transparent about the reasons for the temporary ban, but it’s probably related to colorful language used, MRavi told me by phone. MRavi has had multiple runins with the Singapore authorities.

How Singapore handles censorship is important because nations such as China have looked to the multicultural city state to copy some of its policies and development practices, with an eye on how to prevent societal unrest, according to MRavi and others.

How Singapore treats activists and whether its judiciary and press is independent of the country’s administration will be scrutinized as the country rewrites its constitution over the next few years as countries seek to meet the 2030 sustainable development goals.

A few days ago MRavi said he was further “attacked” by the Singapore state for failing to abide by a “cooling off” period ahead of last month’s presidential election.

Singapore had issued Corrective Directions to TikTok and Meta on 31 August and 1 September 2023, to disable access in Singapore to five videos and one post by MRavi. TikTok and Meta complied, the Singapore notice said.


Of course it’s not just Singapore. In Western countries, including the US and UK, bias in the press / media and accusations of deplatforming have been big news for years.

MRavi aside, Singapore does seem to be seeking to find some balance, to its credit.

Singapore’s code

Last month, the POFMA office issued this, apparently after an academic decided to apologize:

In August last year, Singapore’s Court of Appeal dismissed an application by Terry Xu, editor of alternative news website The Online Citizen, to stop the attorney general from continuing with contempt-of-court proceedings against him, according to a US State Dept. report for 2022 that covered free speech.  “The website published a post on its Facebook page in 2021 questioning the equitability of the justice system and thereby allegedly impugning the integrity of the judiciary,” the report said.

The Online Citizen reactivated its website and social media accounts after Xu relocated to Taiwan, the report said.  In response, the  the state’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) “highlighted that POFMA and FICA “would continue to apply to the outlet independent of where its company was located.”

In September 2008, the High Court ruled that Far Eeastern Economic Review and its editor had defamed the family of current PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Dad Lee Kwan Yu, “rejecting arguments” an article was “based on facts and fair comment, concerned matters of public interest, and was a neutral report.[56] Numerous other publications, including the Economist,the New York Times, Bloomberg, Asia Week, and Time magazine have faced defamation suits filed by Lee Kuan Yew or Lee Hsien Loong.[57]” according to a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch (I retained the report’s footnote links).

 The Singapore government has also used contempt laws against foreign media in the city state, the report went on. “The Singapore authorities brought a claim against both Wall Street Journal Deputy Editor Melanie Kirkpatrick and Dow Jones, the owner of the paper, for contempt of court in 2008 for publishing a letter to the editor from Chee Soon Juan and two editorials that questioned the independence of the Singapore judiciary.”

This happened even though Singapore gave up jury trials in 1969.

Free speech is under threat in the age of the surveillance economy. Media across the world are regularly being accused of and do undertake biased reporting, either accidently or on purpose. Unconscious bias is still rife on multiple fronts among probably thousands of influential reporters and commentators around the world.

In Singapore, the arm of the misinformation law is, indeed, long. Is this system coming to a country near you? See my additional comments in the notes below. What do you think? Email at mathew@carrzee.net

(More to come)





CarrZee: The credibility of solid democracy around the world has never been at this much risk.

Autocracy is on the march. In many nations, global corporations and media companies are having nefarious influence on economics and politics, eroding the power and influence of the people.

Governments seem to be giving up the notion that they are meant to govern for those people. They are not meant to govern for the existing establishment. Nor are they meant to be favoring corporations or politicians over mums, dads and kids.

Singapore, once a beacon of hope and template for sustainable development for people in nations such as China, seems to be letting itself down as it grapples with these issues.

Is the influential city state succumbing to the ill-conceived attraction of an even more entrenched autocracy?



From: Twitter <twitter-legal@x.com>
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2023 at 06:39
Subject: Twitter Receipt of Correspondence
To: Kenneth Jeyaretnam <kjeyaretnam@gmail.com>

Hello @KenJeyaretnam,

In the interest of transparency, we are writing to inform you that Twitter received a notice from the POFMA Office regarding your Twitter account, @KenJeyaretnam. It states that a Part 3 Correction Direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 was issued with respect to a Tweet in your account. Please note that under Singapore law, Twitter is required to limit the Tweet’s visibility. More information regarding this can be found on our Help Centre: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/enforcement-options.

It is our policy to notify our users if we take action related to their account pursuant to applicable local legislation, rules or directions, pursuant to communication from an authorized entity (such as law enforcement or a government agency). This page provides more information on our policy: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/defending-and-respecting-our-users-voice.

For more information on legal notices Twitter receives from governments worldwide, please refer to this article on our Help Center: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/twitter-legal-faqs.

Thank you.






The Hindu

Singapore’s Indian-origin Ministers sue PM’s brother over state-owned bungalow rental issue

The case conference will take place on Tuesday (September 5) at 9 am, according to a hearing list on the Singapore Courts’ website, Channel News Asia reported on Saturday.

September 03, 2023 08:20 am | Updated 12:13 pm IST – Singapore

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong’s brother Lee Hsien Yang sued for defamation over allegations relating to their rental of two state-owned bungalows | file photo | Photo Credit: AFP

Singapore’s two Indian-origin cabinet Ministers have sued Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for defamation over allegations relating to their rental of two state-owned bungalows.

The case conference will take place on Tuesday (September 5) at 9 am, according to a hearing list on the Singapore Courts’ website, Channel News Asia reported on Saturday.

The two ministers – Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan – had sent lawyers’ letters to Lee Hsien Yang in July, saying they would sue unless he apologises, withdraws his allegations and pays damages relating to the colonial-era bungalows in Ridout Road.

In a Facebook post on July 27, Shanmugam said Lee Hsien Yang had accused him and Balakrishnan of “acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road”.

These allegations are false, Mr. Shanmugam added.

Lee Hsien Yang and his wife left the country after declining to attend a police interview in July 2022 that relates to lying in judicial proceedings about the will of his late father and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr. Shanmugam says he rented Ridout Road property to prepare for sale of family home, not profiting from rental.

The issue surrounding the rental of the two Ridout Road state properties surfaced in early May when opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam questioned if the ministers were “paying less than the fair market value” for the bungalows.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) was tasked to investigate whether there was any misconduct related to the transactions and found no wrongdoing.

The CPIB report, released on June 28, said the two ministers did not benefit from getting any privileged information. They were not given preferential treatment and their rental rates were comparable to that of neighbouring properties, the report stated.

The issue was debated in parliament on July 3.

Lee Hsien Yang has made at least eight Facebook posts on Ridout Road before and after CPIB’s report and the parliament debate, according to the channel report.

A Facebook post on July 23 resulted in a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), with the Law Ministry saying that it contained untrue statements.

Although Lee Hsien Yang had put up a correction notice as required, he also published a new post two days later saying he stood by what he wrote.

Pointing out that his post was made in the United Kingdom, Lee Hsien Yang said, “If K. Shanmugam and V. Balakrishnan believe that they have a real case, then they should sue me in the U.K.” Although Lee Hsien Yang is overseas, he can still be sued in Singapore, according to the media report.


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