Singapore’s Ministry of Health was forced to issue a correction guideline under Protection from Online Falsehoods and Misinformation Act (an act to tackle fake news online) after Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went all out to broadcast his claim of the ‘Singapore variant’.
Taking cognizance of the false statement being circulated online soon after Kejriwal’s claim, Singapore’s Health Ministry issued correction guidelines to Facebook and Twitter and SPH Magazines Ltd.
The social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and HardwareZone.com have been instructed to carry the Correction Notice for all the end-users of these platforms in Singapore.
Clarification regarding Kejriwal’s false claims of the ‘Singapore strain’
The clarification issued by Singapore reads, “There is no new “Singapore” variant of COVID-19. Neither is there evidence of any COVID-19 variant that is ‘extremely dangerous for kids’. 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.”
“The existence and spread of the B.1.617.2 variant within India predates the detection of the variant in Singapore, and this has been publicly known and reported by various media sources from as early as 5 May 2021,” the statement details further.
Singapore’s law against online fake news
It is imperative to note that the Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act is popularly known as Fake News Law, and it allows the authorities to respond to fake news by enforcing links to fact-checking sites, censoring websites or social media accounts, and filing criminal charges.
Kejriwal’s claim not only embarrassed India on a global platform but also invoked strong reactions from the Singapore government.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Singapore High Commissioner to India Simon Wong said that Singapore and India are solid partners in the fight against COVID-19, and the pandemic knows no boundary or political color.
Addressing the controversy that erupted on Tuesday over Arvind Kejriwal’s unnecessary fear-mongering by claiming that there was a new ‘Singapore variant’ of Covid-19 which is very dangerous to children, Wong said that the false statements by Arvind Kejriwal would invite actions under Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act (POFMA), an act intended to mitigate misinformation in the country. However, he added that they are satisfied with the government of India’s clarification, putting an end to the matter.
Delhi CM Kejriwal fear-mongers about new Covid strain, MEA slams Arvind Kejriwal
On Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to claim that a new variant of Covid-19 was found in Singapore, which could result in India’s third wave. Resorting to unnecessary fear-mongering, the Delhi Chief Minister put out unverified information to claim that the new variant was extremely dangerous for children.
AAP government undeterred on its claim
Despite being slammed by Singapore officials and the Ministry of External Affairs in India, the AAP government continues to further its claim of the Covid-19 ‘Singapore variant’ in India.
Coming out in support of his party leader, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain said, “Wrong to say, there is no #COVID19 strain particular to Singapore. There are many strains in India, Will give clarification on the Singapore strain soon. But we assure you there is a new strain in India.”
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia too parroted the same narrative. Deflecting from the topic, Sisodia attacked the BJP for not focusing enough on the issue, despite the fact that neither Kejriwal nor his ministers Jain and Sisodia, presented any factual evidence of the existence of the so-called ‘Singapore strain’.