POFMA in Numbers (v2020.05.16)

Note: a more recent version of the dataset and its analysis is available (please check theĀ Updates section of the website).

According to the Dataset

This dataset’s methodology and sources

The sources used in data collection are government reports (POFMA Office press releases and Gov.sg Factually articles). Media reports and direct sources (the communications themselves) are also used to verify the accessibility of some communications. A full description of the dataset’s methodology can be found here, and the full dataset can be downloaded here.

Note that this is how the dataset defines reports, uses and communications:

  • A report is a government press release issued to announce a use of the legislation.
  • Within a single report, one can find multiple distinct directions or orders under POFMA. Each of these are classified as a distinct use of POFMA.
  • Each direction or order can affect multiple distinct electronic communications, such as a Facebook post or website article.

For example:

  • According to Report 1, a Facebook post is the subject of a correction direction, issued to Individual A.
  • According to Report 2, this same Facebook post is also the subject of a targeted correction direction, issued to Facebook.

The POFMA’ed dataset would thus track that Facebook post as one communication, subject to two distinct POFMA uses, according to two distinct reports.

POFMA in numbers: One can find 48 distinct uses of POFMA affecting 43 electronic communications, recorded in 25 government reports. The full dataset can be downloaded here.

  • The latest use of POFMA (regarding New Naratif’s video) marks the first use by Minister K. Shanmugam as the Minister for Law (he had previously used the law as the Minister for Home Affairs).
  • The latest use of POFMA (regarding New Naratif’s video) marks the first use concerning content on Youtube (all prior uses were concerning content on Facebook, the HardwareZone Forum or individual websites).

Facebook is the medium which accounts for the majority of POFMA uses (38/48 uses).

The other mediums are individual Websites (6/48); the HardwareZone Forum (2/48); and Youtube (2/48).

Most POFMA uses concern content which relate to the COVID-19 outbreak (27/48 uses).

Our Class Notes has written an insightful article examining the uses of POFMA directed at content relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, and how it compares to clarifications made by the government which did not involve POFMA. An interesting read!

Most POFMA uses are correction directions (35/48 uses).

The other types of POFMA uses include Targeted Correction Directions (6/48 uses); Declared Online Locations (3/48 uses); Disabling Order (for Declared Online Locations) (2/48 uses); General Correction Directions (1/48 uses); and Access Blocking Orders (1/48 uses).

  • Lawyers for Liberty is the only target actor whose content has been the subject of an Access Blocking Order.
  • All Declared Online Locations and their subsequent Disabling Orders affect Facebook pages, all of which are operated by Mr Alex Tan; according to government reports.
  • SPH (operator of the HardwareZone Forum) is the sole recipient of the General Correction Direction, for content posted by a user on the HardwareZone Forum.

January 2020 remains the month with the most uses of POFMA (12/48 uses).

The content subject to the POFMA uses in January include:

The Minister for Health is the most frequent user of POFMA (8/48 uses).


  • Correction: Inclusion of 1 previously overlooked POFMA use and communication.
    • The dataset previously treated the POFMA uses from this report as two instances (1 correction direction and 1 targeted correction direction) instead of three (2 correction directions and 1 targeted correction direction). This has been corrected.
    • A big thank you to the dataset user that pointed this out.

Improving the Dataset

Are you thinking of using this dataset? As a student, I’m ever eager to improve this dataset’s accuracy and useability to others, and am always eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. If you have thoughts, comments or suggestions, please do direct them towards POFMAed@gmail.com.

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