While national security has traditionally been focused on military and homeland security, it is no longer independent of other dimensions such as economic and energy security, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said.
Speaking at the opening of a regional conference on national security yesterday, Mrs Teo added that what happens on the Internet can disrupt the peace in the physical world.
She cited the example of Sri Lanka where online falsehoods preyed on social fault lines, spreading and causing civil unrest earlier this year. Two people died and property, including more than 20 mosques, was damaged.
"Online falsehoods can have national security implications when they transcend boundaries and gain traction," Mrs Teo said.
To keep peace in an increasingly complex security landscape, the security sector has to work with those outside its orbit.
"The community has a role to play, to enlarge the common social space, and foster mutual understanding and trust," said Mrs Teo. This is because deliberate online falsehoods can cause rifts in the social fabric, turning groups on one another.
BOUNDARIES ARE BLURRING
The boundaries to national security are blurring and rapidly evolving... The solutions to security challenges are not always solely security in nature.
SECOND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS JOSEPHINE TEO, speaking at a regional conference. She says national security is no longer independent of other dimensions such as economic and energy security.
"Trust is eroded," she said. "In its place, we have mutual suspicion, which then becomes fertile ground for extremist ideologies to spread and take root."
One way to stop extremism from festering is to step up community awareness towards radicalisation so that timely intervention and rehabilitation measures can be taken.
"It is very difficult for the authorities to detect someone who has been self-radicalised," Mrs Teo said, noting that Singapore has had its "fair share of radicalised individuals".
In its fight against terrorism, Singapore has emphasised the role that family, friends and colleagues can play to alert the authorities when they suspect someone they know has been radicalised.
"It is more likely that the people around the self-radicalised individual would first notice something is amiss," said Mrs Teo.
Business and technology companies can also help to boost cyber security and to prevent the spread of falsehoods and hate speech, she noted.
In the Sri Lanka case, its government had to shut down access to Facebook and Whatsapp after failing to get the social media giant to stop the spread of rumours.
"The boundaries to national security are blurring and rapidly evolving," Mrs Teo said, referring to the conference's title.
"The solutions to security challenges are not always solely security in nature," she added.