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Singapore invokes anti-misinformation law after Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet on ‘new COVID-19 variant’

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Singapore invokes anti-misinformation law after Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet on ‘new COVID-19 variant’

New Delhi: Singapore government reportedly invoked its anti-misinformation law – Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act or the POFMA –  a day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted about the new more deadly coronavirus variant from Singapore.

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The country’s health ministry has instructed the POFMA office to issue “General Correction Directions” to Facebook, Twitter. Notably, the notice is not directed at Delhi CM or Indian social media but aims at safeguarding Singaporeans from false information.

Under this, the social media giants will be required to carry a “Correction Notice to all end-users in Singapore” who use the app that “there is no new ‘Singapore’ variant of COVID-19. Neither is there evidence of any COVID-19 variant that is extremely dangerous for kids.”

Correction Notice reveals the “fact of the case” by pointing out that “there is a false statement circulating online” which “implies that a new, previously unknown variant of COVID-19 originated in Singapore and/or risks spreading to India from Singapore.” The notice clarifies that “the strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases detected in Singapore in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated from India.”

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in his remarks on Twitter called on India’s government to suspend air services with Singapore immediately over the COVID-19 variant which he highlighted impacts children.

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This Wednesday saw a full-blown diplomatic row over the comments of Delhi CM, with the Singaporean foreign ministry raising the matter with the Indian high commissioner to the country, P Kumaran. The Singaporean Foreign ministry in a statement “regretted” the “unfounded assertions” made by Mr Kejriwal.

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It was followed by an exchange on Twitter between India’s and Singapore’s foreign minister. External affairs minister Dr. S Jaishankar termed the comments by Delhi CM “irresponsible” which “can damage long-standing partnerships” while Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called for the need to “focus on resolving the situation in our respective countries and helping one another.”

High commissioner of Singapore to India Simon Wong also held a presser on the issue and said with exchanges between foreign ministers of the two countries “we wished to end to this episode” since authorities representing Government of India have given a “crystal clear” clarification which is “heartening”.

 

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