}

28 May 2020

With effect from 1 April 2020, the Protection from Harassment Act (“POHA”) was amended to provide for enhanced measures to tackle the spread of online false statements of fact (“falsehoods”). Under the amended POHA, the court is empowered to make both final and interim orders in cases involving falsehoods. Remedies that may be issued under the amended POHA in relation to falsehoods (e.g. stop publication orders, correction orders, disabling orders, targeted correction orders or general correction orders) will be available to individuals and entities (companies, associations, corporate or unincorporated bodies of persons). The courts may also make interim orders to provide urgent relief to victims.

Set out below is a summary of the orders available under the amended POHA to combat the spread of online falsehoods:

  • Stop publication order: This is a court order made under the new section 15A of the POHA against an individual or entity to stop publishing a falsehood, or any substantially similar statement, within a specified time.
  •  Correction order: This is is a court order made under the new section 15B of the POHA against an individual or entity who has published a falsehood to publish a statement that the court has determined the aforementioned statement to be false and correcting the falsehood. 
  • Disabling order: This is a court order made under the new section 15C of the POHA against an internet intermediary whose service has been used to publish a falsehood to disable user access to the falsehood or copies thereof. 
  • Targeted correction order: This is a court order made under the new section 15D of the POHA against an internet intermediary whose service has been used to publish a falsehood. The targeted correction order directs the internet intermediary to publish a statement to all users who accessed the aforementioned statement or copies thereof that the court has determined the aforementioned statement to be false and correcting the falsehood. 
  • General correction order: This is a court order made under the new section 15E of the POHA against certain prescribed individuals or entities who have published or whose service has been used to publish a falsehood. The general correction order directs the prescribed individual or entity to publish a statement to all of its users, or a specified class of users, that the court has determined the aforementioned statement to be false and correcting the falsehood. 

The following subsidiary legislation which relates to the POHA amendments on tackling the spread of online falsehoods also came into effect on 1 April 2020:

  • Protection from Harassment (Prescribed Internet Intermediaries and Others) Regulations 2020 
  • Protection from Harassment (Temporary Exemption) Order 2020 
  • Protection from Harassment (Exempt Class of Persons) (Amendment) Order 2020
  • Rules of Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2020 

By way of background, the amendments to the POHA were passed in Parliament on 7 May 2019 to provide for, among others, the new offence of doxxing, enhanced measures to address the spread of online falsehoods affecting private persons (both individuals and entities) and the introduction of a new Protection from Harassment Court. With effect from 1 January 2020, amendments relating to doxxing came into effect making it an offence to publish identity information of a victim (an individual) with the intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the victim. Amendments relating to the Protection from Harassment Court will be operationalised at a later date. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law are working with relevant agencies to operationalise the amendments and to establish the Protection from Harassment Court.

Reference materials

The following reference materials are available on Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg:

 

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