Monday marked a significant day for Singapore's legislature with Parliament passing a law against foreign interference after a 10-hour airing in the House, three years after it was first raised and three weeks after the extensive, hotly debated legislation was tabled. The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or Fica, aims to prevent, detect and disrupt foreign interference in domestic politics conducted through hostile information campaigns (HICs) and the use of local proxies. The Act continues the vigorous tradition of pre-emptive legislative action to ensure that Singaporeans and only Singaporeans can decide on the overall direction and particular outcomes of domestic politics. What makes this piece of legislation special is that it is calibrated finely to meet the special challenge of hostile digital campaigns aimed at undermining the integrity of the Singapore political and social systems.
The nature and extent of the threat are clear from the success of such campaigns internationally. From allegations of foreign meddling in the American presidential electoral process to Australia's experience of combating foreign disinformation campaigns, international borders have become porous in ways that would not have been possible in the pre-Internet age. Today, the traditional tools of espionage are being complemented by equally opaque and insidious methods of disinformation that target stress points in countries through the anonymity of social media.