Gutzy Asia Barred from Receiving Financial Benefits Over Multiple Falsehoods

On 11 June 2024, Gutzy Asia and its social media pages on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) has been officially designated as Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

Announced by Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, this designation will remain in effect from 12 June 2024 until 11 June 2026.

But what exactly does this mean for both the site and its consumers, and why is it significant?

Who are Gutzy Asia?

Gutzy Asia is a Taiwan-based media company that brings audiences “vast and diverse narratives” that are often overlooked in Asia.

According to their website, Gutzy Asia wishes to amplify voices that typically go unheard, especially within the realm of Asia’s societies, industries and geopolitics.

The company covers a wide range of topics, including trending social media events, current affairs, and diverse opinions across the Asian continent. 

As of June 2024, they have amassed over two thousand followers on both Facebook and TikTok.

What Are Declared Online Locations (DOLs)?

POFMA, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, is a law in Singapore aimed at curbing the spread of false information online.

(Naturally, as you can’t be out there spouting untrue facts when you’re a news site.)

In simpler terms, this law lets the government require that a notice be added next to false information to set the record straight. If a site is marked as a DOL, it must show a notice telling visitors about its status and reminding them to check the facts of what they read there.

Under POFMA, an online location can be declared as a DOL if it has repeatedly published false statements.

Specifically, if an online site or social media page has received three or more POFMA correction directions within six months, it can be slapped with a DOL label, which is essentially a public warning that the site has a history of writing and distributing false information to the public.

What Did Gutzy Asia Do to be Designated as a DOL?

Gutzy Asia ended up with this designation due to multiple false narratives communicated on its platforms since 2023.

Here’s a breakdown of the false claims that led to this decision:

  1. 16 October 2023: Gutzy Asia falsely reported that a woman who fell to her death in Yishun was a Filipino migrant domestic worker. In reality, she was a Singaporean.
  2. 15 February 2024: The website republished four false statements by former Progress Singapore Party leader Leong Mun Wai. These claims incorrectly stated that a couple living in the West Coast area did not receive any financial assistance.
  3. 18 February 2024: Gutzy Asia also incorrectly claimed that the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) mishandled state properties by charging Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan rents below the market rate for homes on Ridout Road. They also alleged that these ministers received special rental terms.

These repeated violations, especially within a short period of time, eventually prompted the authorities to take action.

The Consequences

With the DOL status, Gutzy Asia is no longer allowed to derive any financial or material benefit from operating its website and social media pages.

This means that digital advertising intermediaries and service providers must ensure that paid content is not communicated in Singapore.

In a nutshell, Gutzy Asia is unable make money from ads or other paid content.

Individuals and companies are also not allowed to provide financial support to Gutzy Asia if they know or believe that this support would help in spreading false information.

Lastly, each of Gutzy Asia’s online sites must carry a prominent notice indicating their DOL status. This notice will serve as a warning to any visitors about the site’s history of spreading false information.

For the general public, the designation of Gutzy Asia as a DOL is a reminder to be cautious about the information they consume from this site. The Ministry for Communications and Information (MCI) advises individuals to fact-check any information from DOLs to avoid being misled by falsehoods.

Other Sites Designated as DOLs

Gutzy Asia is not the only platform to be designated as a DOL, however, as there are currently nine other online sites bearing this status.

These include Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and X account pages, along with The Ricebowl Singapore website.

Additionally, The Online Citizen (TOC) Asia’s website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and X account pages are also included.

These platforms have also been flagged for spreading false information in the past and have to abide by similar restrictions and public notices as Gutzy Asia.

Should any platform wish to contest a DOL designation, they can submit an application to the Minister for Communications and Information to vary or cancel the declaration.

Should the minister rejects the request, an appeal can be made to the High Court. This guarantees a way for individuals who feel they have been unfairly singled out to legally challenge the decision.

Gutzy Asia getting labeled as a Declared Online Location is a pretty big deal in Singapore’s fight against online fibs. The government’s cracking down hard with POFMA to stop false stories and keep us safe.

Hey, it’s a wake-up call for all of us scrolling online – as K-pop group NCT 127 puts it best, “Check the facts, go check that”.

At the end of the day, the aim is to help everyone become smarter about what they read online. With the rise of fake news out there, Singapore’s taking steps to keep everything truthful and make sure we can trust what we see online.