Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act Bill #WTFica #FakesNews #SayNoToFakeNews
“Our racial and religious mix is easily exploitable by different countries. … [We] see a steady build-up of different narratives, which is being very cleverly done. It is not obvious propaganda, but it conditions people to think in certain ways, particularly on foreign policy issues, often appealing to a larger racial identity, beyond the Singaporean identity.”
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said this during his speech at the Second Reading of the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA) Bill.
Minister Shanmugam was referring to a period of tension with another country between 2016 and 2017, during which Singapore experienced coordinated attempts to manipulate sentiments in Singapore to undermine our foreign policy positions. Social media accounts which had lain dormant for many years mysteriously became active again, and uploaded online commentaries and videos which were then shared widely across various social media and communication platforms.
Meant to appeal to the ethnic pride of certain ethnic groups in Singapore, it was a clear attempt by a foreign actor to manipulate local sentiments.
This was not the only instance where Singapore was at the receiving end of cyber manipulation. In 2018, when Singapore underwent a period of maritime and airspace disputes with a neighbouring country, there was a spike in online comments critical of Singapore. Anonymous accounts made up 40 percent of anti-Singapore comments on social media posts related to traffic congestions at land checkpoints, creating an artificial impression of widespread objection to Singapore’s position at a time of heightened bilateral tensions.
These recent cases illustrate how foreign actors can leverage cyberspace to manipulate sentiments, deepen social divisions, create distrust in institutions, and ultimately destabilise a country. Singapore is especially at risk due to our small size, hyper-connectivity, and multi-religious society.
Enhanced legal frameworks such as FICA provides levers for Singapore to deal with such threats. But we also bear a personal responsibility towards discerning disinformation — to avoid becoming tools that meet a foreign agenda at the expense of Singapore, our home. Stay mindful. Protect our way of life, and what Singapore stands for.
#WTFica #FakeNews #DeepFake #SayNoToFakeNews
Sources: ST, MHA FICA Webpage