Facebook, MCCY hold workshop to teach community, religious groups to counter radical ideologies online

Facebook and MCCY held a pilot workshop for community and religious groups to equip them with the tools to fight terror online, on Dec 5, 2017.
Facebook and MCCY held a pilot workshop for community and religious groups to equip them with the tools to fight terror online, on Dec 5, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Social media giant Facebook is hoping to equip community and religious groups in Singapore with skills to counter radical ideologies online.

It held on Tuesday (Dec 5) a pilot workshop, which aims to give these groups the tools they need in the fight against terror.

During the the lively two-hour session organised by Facebook and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, more than 100 participants learned more about building an online presence and better engaging netizens - two areas community and religious leaders have been working to boost in recent years.

Extremists have seized on social media platforms to spread their radical ideology and woo supporters, placing pressure on sites like Facebook to tackle extremist content more effectively.

Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek, who spoke during the workshop, highlighted the importance of religious and community groups reaching out online.

"Besides promoting positive messages to support one another, we also need to speak out in one voice against divisive and sinister ideologies," said Mr Kwek, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth.

He said the Government must update legislation to keep up with the terror threat, and urged social media platforms to work with the authorities and eradicate content promoting hate and terrorism.

Mr Roy Tan, an outreach manager at Facebook, urged participants to rethink how they attract and engage netizens who now spend more time surfing the Internet on their phones. He also listed some apps that people can use to produce and put across content online.

Ms Gullnaz Baig, Facebook's Asia-Pacific head of counterterrorism policy, introduced some cartoons to participants like web series Average Mohamad, which counters ISIS ideology.

Facebook's head of South-east Asia public policy Alvin Tan told The Straits Times it is looking at how the #SpeakUpSpeakOut workshop can help in Singapore. Such workshops could be held in other South-east Asian countries in future, he added.

Challenging narratives online is a valuable part of the response to real-world extremism, he said, adding that people use Facebook to do so.

Ms Baig said the social media giant is committed to making the network "a hostile place for terrorists".

Its efforts to crack down down on terrorists and their extreme messages range from tapping on artificial intelligence to block and remove terror-related content, to beefing up its team of counter-terrorism specialists.

In a June blog post that detailed the various steps it has taken to combat online radicalisation, Facebook said its counter-terrorism team has grown to more than 150 people, including academics, analysts and former law enforcement agents.

This team helps build tools to detect terrorist activity on the social network, among other things.

Facebook, which has 2 billion users, last week said it has removed 99 per cent of content related to ISIS and Al-Qaeda before these were was flagged by users.