Singapore Church Collaborates with Tech Companies to Reduce Online Radicalism
06/29/2021 Singapore (International Christian Concern) – The Catholic Church in Singapore has begun collaborating with the government and tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and TikTok on a project to train religious organizations to use social media to fight online radicalism.
According to UCA News, the Singapore Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth launched the project on June 26, citing concerns about online radicalism. It will run three workshops throughout the summer that will train organizations, including religious ones, to strengthen their online presence. It will also provide a guide for organizations on what to do when they encounter radical content.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore and the National Council of Churches in Singapore will be among those participating in the workshops. The Minister of Culture, Community, and Youth, Alvin Tan, was inspired to start the project due to the increase in social media activity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this had on online radicalization. With more people using social media apps, the potential for platforms to spread – or to stop the spread of – radical content has increased.
The workshops are designed to educate religious groups, on how to expand their platforms using popular social media channels such as Instagram stories and TikTok. With this training, the hope is that more youth can be dissuaded from watching extremist content about race and religion.
Participants at the workshops will also be trained on how to report malicious content to social media platforms and how to organize livestreams to discuss these topics.
The pilot project was jumpstarted following several cases of cyber-radicalism that were recently reported in Singapore. In January, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) announced that a 16-year-old Christian student had been arrested under the Internal Security Act for plotting attacks on two mosques and killing worshippers on March 15, the second anniversary of the New Zealand terror attacks. The youth was specifically influenced by the far-right, extremist ideology of Australian Brenton Tarran, who massacred some 50 mosque-goers in Christchurch in 2019.
Abbas Ali Mohamed Anas, an ambassador of interfaith youth platform Roses for Peace, said the initiative was timely and crucial. “Without proper guidance and information to navigate this digital space, we face the risk of online radicalization and hate speech among our youth,” he said, reported the Straits Times. Anas continued, “We need to counter this worrying trend by facilitating conversations responsibly through messages of peace, love and harmony.”
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