2 initiatives launched to help fight fake news, terrorism

Seminar module, security advisory booklet targeted at religious and community groups

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced the initiatives at the Counter-Terrorism Seminar for Buddhist and Taoist Temples. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH

Two new initiatives have been launched to help religious and community groups fight fake news and terrorism.

One is a seminar module that helps them understand what fake news is and how it could impact security and society. The other is a security advisory booklet that will help them prepare their response plans for emergencies. The initiatives were announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday at the Counter-Terrorism Seminar for Buddhist and Taoist Temples.

Ms Fu told reporters: "The threat to national security is ever present and we find that besides terrorist attacks, online falsehoods have also become a possible avenue."

While Singapore enjoys racial and religious harmony, race and religion are an "easy target" for creating fault lines, she cautioned. "We're affected by events that are happening outside (of Singapore)... So we must always have the resilience in society to help us combat such influences," she said.

"In combating online falsehoods, we want to equip our community leaders with the ability to first detect and identify them, and then to have a response, which has to be very timely and effective. You have to build it (the response) before any incidents happen."

The module, titled Combating Fake News, is spearheaded by the National Library Board, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). One of the things taught is that humorous parodies and reports that one does not agree with do not constitute fake news.

The module, which was presented yesterday, will be included in future counter-terrorism seminars by the Singapore Police Force and MCCY.

The security advisory booklet includes advice on how to prepare a contingency response plan and planning guidelines for specific terror scenarios, such as the use of a vehicle as a weapon or the release of a chemical agent. Written in four languages, it was done by MCCY, the police and the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles.

"Places of worship are often soft targets because they are where people congregate," Ms Fu said. "This booklet is comprehensive (and will) help religious leaders better plan for emergencies."

Religious leaders at the seminar welcomed the new initiatives.

On the fake news module, Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said: "It tells people not to blindly trust what is online when it comes to religion. When in doubt, go directly to the religious leaders."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 13, 2019, with the headline 2 initiatives launched to help fight fake news, terrorism. Subscribe