MP He Ting Ru

Ms He Ting Ru asked the Minister for Communications and Information in each of the years between 2020 and 2022 (a) how many POFMA reports are received by the various Ministries that relate to COVID-19; and (b) how many of such reports resulted in no further action being taken.

The Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information (Dr Janil Puthucheary) (for the Minister for Communications and Information): Sir, between 2020 and 2022, the POFMA Office received over 280 pieces of feedback and enquiries related to COVID-19 issues. This included public feedback to various Government agencies on potential COVID-19 falsehoods that were redirected to the POFMA Office. There were four POFMA cases involving the issuance of seven POFMA directions that were linked to such public feedback.

Mr Speaker: Ms He Ting Ru. 

Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang): I thank the Senior Minister of State for the reply. I just have a very quick supplementary question. Just wondered whether what was the assessment of the effectiveness of the POFMA legislation and obviously all the tools available under the POFMA regime given to the Ministries in the various authorities in order to combat these falsehoods that resulted from COVID-19-related misinformation being circulated? 

Dr Janil Puthucheary: Sir, in all the cases that I have mentioned where action was taken, the Government was already aware of the falsehoods prior to receiving the feedback and had begun an assessment of the falsehoods. The Government took and continues to treat COVID-19 misinformation very seriously, even if the feedback did not result in a POFMA action. The feedback highlighted gaps and understanding that potentially would deserve attention. 

As a result, other than the POFMA direction, the Government has also used public communication and education efforts to provide accurate and timely information relating to COVID-19. This includes providing up-to-date information directly to Singaporeans through various channels such as the WhatsApp channel, which grew to over 1.2 million subscribers during the pandemic.

Some of our polls in 2022 show that three in four members of the public think that the Government has provided sufficient information on COVID-19. A 2021 survey showed that over 86% agreed that these messages helped in their decision to get vaccinated. 

Our actions and our concerted efforts to counter COVID-19 misinformation contributed to high levels of public trust, which have allowed us to come together as a country to achieve high vaccination coverage and implement effective COVID-19 measures.

Ministry of Communications and Information
21 March 2023

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