The International Political Science Association (IPSA) is deeply concerned about the possible implications of a proposed “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” (POFMA, 2019), that is under consideration by the government of Singapore may have for academic freedom.
IPSA is committed and dedicated to the pursuit of systematic and rigorous academic research and the teaching of political science and various related disciplines. This endeavor and related goals involve support and close cooperation among political scientists around the world, including IPSA’s national member organizations; its scholarly goals can be achieved only if the academic freedom of scholars and their institutions are fully respected.
We are concerned that the proposed bill may well have serious and detrimental consequences, by making scholars hesitant to conduct research that might violate the provisions of POFMA. The lack of definitions of key terms of the legislation may prevent scholars from freely conducting their research regarding Singapore and/or other political systems that have friendly relations with Singapore. Several vaguely defined and ambiguous terms, such as “statements of facts” that are “false and misleading” or that may affect “public tranquility and the friendly relations of Singapore with other countries” can criminalize or stifle legitimate and appropriate research. Academic scholarship is built on principles of scrutiny of “facts” that may be reconsidered or even overturned by new discoveries. Therefore, any “facts” might be interpreted as "false” information upon the advancement of academic research.
Accordingly, we strongly fear that the bill, if or when enacted, could well violate the essential academic freedom for conducting research about and in Singapore, and beyond. Therefore, we respectfully yet emphatically request that the authorities of Singapore reconsider and resist the adoption of this bill and to grant full, complete freedom of research, teaching and dissemination of research results in and about Singapore.