Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Twitter's impact on society is far from inconsequential

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN
Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - The word "twitter" may mean inconsequential chatter in the English dictionary, but the impact the company that bears the name has made on society is "far from inconsequential".

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim delivered this message at the opening of Twitter's Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore on Thursday (June 11).

"Since the change in strategy in late-2009 to emphasise (on) news and information, Twitter has changed the social media landscape," said Dr Yaacob. "It has become an important discovery agent and communication tool around the world."

He added that he has been using the social media tool to stay updated on breaking news and information related to his constituency.

"Tweets are not always just bursts of inconsequential information or chirps from birds... What we see online can shape our world views and how we act," Dr Yaacob said.

For instance, Twitter is used to raise humanitarian aid and donations for victims like those affected by the Nepal earthquake in April.

Conversely if abused, tools like Twitter can also be conveniently used to intimidate and harass people.

But Dr Yaacob also praised Twitter for recent efforts to help its users fight abuse on its network.

On Wednesday (June 10), Twitter launched a new tool to let users share block lists with one another. In doing so, users will be able to more quickly and easily block multiple accounts at once.

Previously, users needed to go through the tedious process of discovering offenders and adding the individuals to their block list.

With the opening of its regional headquarters in Singapore, Twitter is also planning to add some 100 jobs to its current headcount of 80.

Specifically, it is looking to build a technical lab comprising data analytics, engineering and technology support experts, among others.

Twitter's Asia-Pacific managing director of online sales Aliza Knox said: "We're hiring the best and brightest to take our company to the next phase of regional growth as well as create a hub of innovation in Singapore."

Dr Yaacob said that Twitter's new lab is aligned with Singapore's push towards becoming a smart nation.

itham@sph.com.sg