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K Shanmugam files lawsuit against TikTok over false allegations made by users

K Shanmugam files lawsuit against TikTok over false allegations made by users

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Singapore’s law and home affairs minister, K Shanmugam, has reportedly launched a civil lawsuit against TikTok after it failed to help him identify three users who uploaded videos spreading false information about him.

According to a report by Today Online, the minister filed three affidavits supporting an application for a court order for TikTok to identify the three users. In his affidavit, he said that TikTok had withheld basic information about the users despite them breaching its posting guidelines. 

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The Today Online report further stated that other false allegations included a 13 August 2023 TikTok post by a user under the handle “@trusted.selller”, who allegedly uploaded a video containing two screenshots. 

The first screenshot was reportedly of a Facebook search result displaying an image of the minister and his former wife, in response to the search term “k shanmugam ex wife”. The other screenshot reportedly featured a forum post containing allegations against the minister, which was attributed to a “Former Mrs K. Shanmugam”. 

The post was referencing a 15 August 2023 Facebook post made by the minister which said that a person impersonating his ex-wife, Jothie Rajah, had put up a "false and nasty" post years ago.  

He said that the post had not been written by Rajah, and that she had told him that she did not write it. He added that at the time, he left the matter alone after it died down, but now that the post is being deliberately recirculated, he will file a police report this time. 

Today Online’s report also stated that another TikTok user under the username "@tharakhussin" purportedly uploaded a video on 15 August 2023 containing an image of a Facebook post featuring an article published by celebscritic.com, which included false and defamatory claims about the minister. 

While the video did not link the article directly, the headline displayed reportedly highlighted the minister’s alleged extra-marital affair with member of parliament, Foo Mee Har. 

While the post seems to have been taken down, another post a few days later on 22 August 2023, by the same TikTok user, featured a screenshot of a Facebook post by a user called “Gilbert Louis” addressing the minister. In the post, the user alludes to Foo, asking the minister if he had “any comment about looking at pretty women by TKL.” 

According to Today Online, Shanmugam has since commenced separate proceedings against celebcritics.com over the published article. It added that on 15 September, the State Courts declared that the article contained false statements about him, and the website was given a stop publication order. 

A third TikTok user under the username "@thaddeusthomas81" reportedly posted a video on 17 August 2023 that contained an image, among others, of Foo with the words “alleged affair with MP Foo Mee Har”, in relation to Shanmugam. The video came with the caption “Clarifications and a look at who is the wife and alleged mistress". 

In his affidavits, the minister reportedly stated that he had never engaged in such an affair. 

According to Today Online, the minister had engaged lawyers to ask TikTok to immediately disable access to the videos following their discovery. He had also sought the three users’ basic subscriber information from the video sharing platform. However, it reportedly responded in an email that it could not disclose the information without a court order or other legal requirement. 

However, Shanmugam's lawyers were still able to reach out to two of TikTok’s users through Facebook, requesting that they remove the videos and provide a written apology, Today Online reported. However, no response was received. 

Without the identity or address of the three users, Shanmugam has reportedly been unable to commence legal proceedings directly against them. He reportedly noted that by using TikTok, the users have agreed not to publish any material that deliberately provokes, harrasses, harms, hurts, cause distress, embarrass, or upset people. However, the act of uploading the videos constitute a breach of the agreement. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to the legal teams of the minister and TikTok for more information.

Across the pond, Malaysia’s communication and digital minister, Fahmi Fadzil, similarly fell victim to defamation following the cancellation of the Good Vibes Festival in July 2023. Fahmi condemned the spread of defamatory posters on social media that alleged that he had orchestrated a cyber army to generate hate towards the Malaysian Islamic Party for the cancellation.  

A police report to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) were made by Fahmi, according to a tweet by the minister.

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