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Blogger tests Singapore's fake news law by rebuffing correction order

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A blogger said on Thursday he would not comply with a Singapore government order to correct a Facebook post in the first test of the city-state’s new ‘fake news’ law.

Singapore’s home ministry said the post on the Facebook page of a blog called the States Times Review, which contained allegations of election rigging, was “false” and “scurrilous”.

It marks the second case in days under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which also allows government ministers to instruct internet firms like Facebook to correct or block access to content they deem false.

Rights groups have raised concerns the fake news law could be used to stifle free speech and chill dissent in the city state, charges government officials have denied.

“States Times Review and it’s editor, who is now a citizen of Australia, will not comply with any order from a foreign government like North Korea or Singapore,” States Times Review posted on Thursday in comments attributed to editor Alex Tan.

Earlier on Thursday, the newly-created POFMA office said Tan, a 32-year-old Singaporean, had been instructed to carry a notice on his Nov. 23 post with a link to a government statement that contained “corrections and clarifications” about the post.

If Tan fails to comply he could be fined of up to S$20,000, or face 12 months jail, or both, according to the law which applies to persons both in and outside the country who make false statements of fact communicated in Singapore.

The POFMA office did not immediately respond to Reuters questions on how long Tan had to comply and whether the government would instruct Facebook to take action if he didn’t. Facebook <FB.O> declined to comment.

In the only other case under the law which came into effect in early October, political figure Brad Bowyer swiftly complied with the correction request on a post which questioned the independence of state investment firms.

Singapore, which has been ruled by the People’s Action Party since independence since 1965, is gearing up for an election expected to take place within months.

(Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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