#5: POFMA'ed

A dataset of every electronic communication subject to Singapore's fake news law

What is POFMA?

POFMA is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, which came into effect on 2 October 2019. It is also commonly known as Singapore’s Fake News legislation. Academia.sg has a good overview of the law’s implications and a regularly updated overview of news coverage / analysis of it.

And I’ve made a dataset on it!

POFMA’ed is a continually updated dataset—I’ve already had to update it three times (over the course of three days) since the initial release—which aims to record every instance of the use of this legislation, and every electronic communication subject to it.

I’ve compiled the data so that there’s an easily accessible site/spreadsheet for academics, media practitioners and the general public to refer to regarding POFMA’s impact on the way we communicate. What I have now is only a starting point, but I’m eager to improve on it.

Why!

I mean, it goes without saying that this is a politically sensitive subject.

The idea sprang from a discourse analysis assignment I was working on (subject classified for reasons). The data I was gathering for it was readily available, but an overview of it wasn’t. It struck me how something that felt so important was falling beneath our collective notice. And as we should all know by now, I love the obscure and seemingly unimportant.

And so began the process of scanning annoyingly inconsistent government press releases and trawling the internets for posts declared to be fake news, all to compile the information into one wonderfully arousing (to me, sorry) spreadsheet. At the end of it all, I am only 10% done with my actual discourse analysis, but I feel qualified enough now to say that I am a genuine next-level procrastinator.

Right now, I’m trying to make the dataset as useable as possible for academics, media practitioners and the general public—as a sort of awareness-raising exercise slash useful tool for future reporting slash self-development project. Here’s hoping that works out. If you’re keen on using the data, reach out (POFMAed@gmail.com)! I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t.

What I’ve learned from this exercise in obsession

  1. I love Open Science and Zenodo (Github integration is amazing).

  2. Professors are wonderful yet alien creatures that do dispense useful information when you’re not complaining about their lectures. And I have a lot to learn still about developing and maintaining useful datasets.

  3. Excel is dark sorcery, and those who can master this dark art can create wonderful things. I’m still a (very green) novice sadly, else I’d be making far better pivot table / summary sheet for the dataset’s excel file.

  4. I have zero chill, because this whole process of data collection and upload has had me constantly on edge. Just figuring out what is and isn’t within the realm of the acceptable to put up has me going in endless (mental) circles.

  5. My partner and friends are amazing.