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To date, the government has not detected any hostile information campaign directed specifically at Singapore over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a written response to the Parliament on May 9.
Shanmugam was responding to a question posed by MP Alex Yam about an assessment by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) regarding disinformation campaigns about the conflict and the measures it was taking against such efforts.
The Minister further pointed out that he had given an answer to a similar parliamentary question tabled on April 4 by Labor Party MP Dennis Tan.
Shanmugam: People are influenced by foreign news and commentary
At that time, Shanmugam said that although the government did not detect such a campaign against Singapore, it did detect some social media accounts involved in local online discussions about the conflict in Ukraine, with features suggesting that these could be inauthentic accounts.
These accounts have been provided to TikTok for its review. Following an internal investigation, the platform shared that the accounts did not appear to be of foreign origin, he added.
Shanmugam pointed out, “Separately, we also noticed that our people were influenced by news and commentary from foreign sources.
He then clarified:
“Actions and misinformation may take the form of hearsay, rumours, half-truths, or misleading statements that may not be readily identifiable as such. They may appear to come from sources that appear local and/or authentic on the face of it, and the same is all the more insidious because they behave or are presented as part of legitimate domestic discourse.”
The Minister then added in his May 9 response on plans to counter this misinformation:
“The government will continue its efforts to build a well-informed and knowledgeable public through various public education efforts that build our information and media skills, so that we know how to discern the veracity of information we come across in line.”
Academics: Singaporeans ‘handicapped’ in the face of misinformation such as Chinese propaganda
On March 17, during an Academia.sg panel titled “A World Divided – International Conflicts and Contending Loyalties in Singapore”, an academic posited that in Singapore there is a certain segment of the population that reacts to the “dam of China’s nationalist narrative.
According to Associate Professor Chong Ja Ian of the National University of Singapore (NUS), China’s national narrative appeals to anti-imperialist and anti-American sentiments.
In addition, the narrative also emphasizes Chinese culture and ethnic pride, which has been confused with the country, which is China, and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Part of it has to do with the constant refrain that we should be careful of the West, that we are Asians and so this CCP pretends that it represents Asia and a certain idea of pan-Asianism, who finds fertile ground with these groups.”
Furthermore, there are also those who favor the idea that the United States is hypocritical.
Another group are people who feel they have been “very unfairly treated” by Singapore’s own policies towards Chinese schools, training and education in the past.
The rise of China therefore validates their beliefs, he added.
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Top photo by Ukrainian State Emergency Service via The Kyiv Independent’s Twitter