No information campaign hostile to S’pore, but TikTok accounts reported: MHA

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SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reported to TikTok that it has reviewed several accounts that appear to be inauthentic, although it said it did not detect a coordinated hostile information campaign against Singapore to influence public opinion on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Responding to questions from the Straits Times, he said on Friday March 25 that he had noticed accounts that “opinions (expressed) repeatedly give a misleading impression of widespread local opposition to the Government’s position”, referring to the comments that surfaced on TikTok condemning Singapore’s sanctions against Russia.

He said these accounts typically lack personal information, use a TikTok-assigned username with a string of numbers, and have yet to follow a high number of accounts.

But a spokesperson for the social networking platform told ST that it has reviewed all reported accounts but would not take action against them as they do not violate its guidelines.

He had also told MHA that these accounts did not appear to be of foreign origin.

An MHA spokesperson told ST: “We have detected TikTok accounts involved in local online discussions about the conflict in Ukraine, with characteristics that suggest they may be inauthentic.”

The spokesperson further warned, “Foreign actors may want to sway local opinion in their favour, garner support from the general public, or even turn the public against positions taken by the government, for their own interests.”

The ministry’s comments come after a report in ST last week reported an increase in such accounts making pro-Russian comments on the video-sharing platform.

“URA,” a battle cry of the Russian armed forces that has become a rallying cry for Russia supporters around the world, is a common refrain.

Others seem to belittle Singapore’s armed forces to make it seem hopeless for Singapore to take a stand against a major nuclear power.

Many accounts also seem to target a regional audience using Malay.

When asked why the Protection Against Online Lies and Manipulation Act, which seeks to correct misrepresentations of facts made online that could harm the national interest, has yet to be used against these actors, MHA said that the accounts they detected are more likely to use a strategy of an online space teeming with opinions.

“(They) galvanize others towards their opinion, and not necessarily by spreading false statements of fact per se,” MHA said.

The ministry advised Singaporeans to check the authenticity and credibility of information they find and to exercise discretion when deciding whether or not to release it.

“We should generally rely on reliable, identifiable, institutional sources for our information, and cross-check information we obtain from elsewhere with those sources,” the MHA said.

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