SDP Pofma case: When words collide

Updated: Feb 11

  • It's not just you: employment data is confusing. Even more so when the definitions of these terms are being contested in court.

  • We took a deep dive into the jargon minefield to lay out, chronologically, what both sides of the arguments are about.

By Daryl Choo and Liang Lei

FILE PHOTO: LIANG LEI


Much of the confusion over the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) challenge against the use of the fake news law against it, at least in the layman’s view, arise because of the loose use of terms. 


The arguments raised on both sides seem complex because they involve the technicalities and legalities of terms that apply to employment data: What sort of data set is applicable to conclude a certain trend? What is an appropriate timeframe to use to represent said trend? 


Even a simple term like “local employment” can be a subject of controversy — local means Singaporeans AND permanent residents (according to the Manpower ministry), and higher unemployment may not mean lower employment. 


Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair argued in his submissions, a copy of which we obtained, that the principles in the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) recognise that “an ordinary reader is not expected to read articles with cautious or critical care, and may engage in certain amount of loose thinking.” 


“What is important is the overall impression the article conveys,” he added.


The hearing at the High Court concluded on Friday (Jan 17) with the judge reserving his verdict. Justice Ang Cheng Hock had given the party until Wednesday to file additional submissions.


To better understand what exactly the arguments are about, we looked at the three SDP posts (here, here and here) that were issued Correction Directions, the Government’s Factually article that pointed out two falsehoods, SDP’s rebuttals (here and here) against the Correction Directions and the Ministry of Manpower’s submitted affidavit.





By NUS Communications and New Media

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