Facebook apologizes for blocking Singapore news site critical of gov’t

A section of The Independent Singapore’s Facebook page.
A section of The Independent Singapore’s Facebook page.

Facebook apologized today for blocking content by a Singaporean news site on the social media platform. 

Facebook apologized this morning after restoring service to The Independent Singapore, which had been unable to publish to Facebook since Thursday morning. Most of its previously posted articles had disappeared, and readers had also complained of not being able to click through to The Independent’s website, which is known for an editorial stance critical of Singapore’s government.

“This was a mistake on our part and not an attempt to silence any political speech, which we work hard to defend,” Facebook told Coconuts Singapore today through a spokesperson on condition they not be named. The site’s access was fully restored by about 8pm last night.

“Links to The Independent Singapore website were blocked from Facebook in error, and we have rectified this issue,” the representative said. “We apologize for the inconvenience caused.”

The Independent said on Facebook yesterday it had inquired with the social media company after noticing the issue and told readers to be patient while they investigated the problem. 

“The blocks were enforced at about 9am today. We were able to post content before that,” the post read. “Please bear with us while we sort this out with FB.”

Screenshot of The Independent Singapore's Facebook post.
Screenshot of The Independent Singapore’s Facebook post.

Readers who shared posts from The Independent’s page to their accounts said their shared posts had disappeared.

“No wonder! I thought a friend in my Facebook complained about my comments. All your articles pertaining to the gahmen has been suspended and removed from my page but only visible to me. So nonsense! Ridiculous!” a Huey Yap wrote in a comment.

Others who tried to click through to The Independent’s website via Facebook were blocked and told it violated Facebook’s “community standards.”

“You can’t go to this link on Facebook. The link you tried to visit goes against our Community Standards,” read the warning.

Facebook note regarding content by The Independent Singapore.

Some people had concocted theories that the issue was politically motivated, given that The Independent is known for not being “pro-PAP (People’s Action Party).”

“Sad that FB is now also forced to comply with the censorships [sic] laws imposed by the government,” one said. 

“Why the pro-PAP websites … not blocked by Facebook? Double standards being employed here.” another said.

Facebook did not specify which of its community standards had been violated, and it is possible it could have involved other issues, such as spam.

The Independent noted that when it attempted to publish an article “Pritam Singh hits back with Keppel scandal as Indranee Rajah suggests WP will have no  ‘moral authority’ in the future,” Facebook said it went against its spam policies, according to a posted screenshot. 

“We have these standards to prevent things such as false advertising, fraud and security breaches.”

The Independent thank the social media giant for rectifying the issue and are looking at ways to prevent this from reoccurring, they told Coconuts Singapore. 

TISG has a good media partnership with Facebook and accepts this as a genuine error with no malicious intent,” it also wrote on its website.

The Independent shared an email it said came from Facebook at about 2am:

Facebook does not have policies that prohibit political speech. We have rectified the issue and apologize for the inconvenience caused. You should see the posts on your page restored and you should be able to post as per normal.”

Earlier posts by the site have reappeared on its page, and new posts were successfully published in the past hour or so. 

More news from the Little Red Dot at Coconuts.co/Singapore.

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