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Don't let social media mar social harmony

Social media editor Daryl Chin wrote a very good article on the fragility of racial harmony and the dangers of the social media ("KL events hold lessons for S'pore"; last Sunday).

Information, even pictures, in social media may not be true. In fact, they can be doctored, and intentionally made to mislead the public, to promote the writers' own agendas.

This fact has not been emphasised enough.

In the pre-computer days,the printed word was regarded as the truth. This is still true, by and large, because the editors of reputable newspapers and journals follow an unwritten code of ethics.

But this does not apply in cyberspace, as the material is not edited and not controlled. All manner of untruths and vulgarities appear in social media, disguised as the truth.

In cyberspace, the onus is now on the reader to sift out facts from falsehoods. The question is whether this state of affairs should continue.

Does the average reader, especially children, have the mental maturity or capacity to digest this profusion of unfiltered material, to keep the jewels and discard the filth and rubbish?

If not, this can lead to social discord and present a danger to social harmony.

Thus, it is the duty of those who govern to take some action.

I suggest that the Government set up a special department of professionals and responsible people to monitor social media constantly. This is not going to be an easy task but it is urgent and necessary to constantly monitor, filter and counter material on social media, and foster positive attitudes towards social harmony and nation-building.

New technology needs a new approach. If we do not tackle the issue, evil forces of society will succeed in moulding the young minds to their way of thinking, to the detriment of our nation.

It will be the cancer that will devour us surreptitiously .

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline 'Don't let social media mar social harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe