Can Singapore's POFMA Apply to Deepfakes?


As deepfakes – synthetic media created using artificial intelligence to manipulate audio, images, and videos – become more sophisticated and prevalent, there are concerns about their potential to spread misinformation and undermine trust in online content. Singapore's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) is a law aimed at combating online misinformation and falsehoods. However, how much can this law apply to deepfakes?


POFMA's Scope and Deepfakes

POFMA grants the government broad powers to issue correction directions, targeted correction directions, disabling directions, and access blocking orders against online falsehoods that meet certain criteria. These criteria include statements that are false and could:

1. prejudice public health, public safety, public tranquility, or public finances;

2. influence the outcome of an election or referendum;

3. incite feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different groups; or

4. diminish public confidence in the government or any public institution.

While POFMA does not explicitly mention deepfakes, the law's broad scope could potentially cover deepfakes that meet the above criteria. For instance, a deepfake video falsely depicting a political leader making inflammatory statements could be subject to POFMA if it is deemed to incite enmity between groups or influence an election outcome.


Challenges and Concerns

However, applying POFMA to deepfakes presents several challenges. Detecting deepfakes can be difficult, especially as the technology used to produce deepfakes advances. Determining the intent behind a deepfake and whether it meets POFMA's criteria may also be complex.


Preparing for Deepfake Threats

To address the deepfake challenge, Singapore has launched initiatives like the $20 million Online Trust and Safety Research Programme, which aims to develop tools for detecting deepfakes and other harmful online content. The government has also emphasised the importance of improving digital media literacy among citizens.

Ultimately, while POFMA provides a legal framework to address online falsehoods, combating deepfakes will require a multi-faceted approach involving technological solutions, public education, and responsible online behavior from all stakeholders.


What’s next?

Discover more about how the legal community addresses deepfakes and misinformation at TechLaw.Fest 2024. Our discussions will cover international policy developments and technical solutions like digital watermarking to combat these issues. You will learn about the legal frameworks in place, such as the EU’s DSA and Singapore’s POFMA, and how to implement effective strategies to safeguard against misinformation. Get your TechLaw.Fest pass now.


This event is Credit Dollar (C$) redeemable for SAL members.