SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) is working to form a new Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) on tackling online harms, especially those targeted at women and girls, Senior Minister of State for Communications & Information Sim Ann said on Monday (Mar 8).
Ms Sim is leading discussions on the formation of the AfA, the first two sessions of which were attended by more than 60 participants.
With women making strides in many areas from education and the workplace to leadership, it was time to look at whether they can enjoy the same degree of confidence and freedom online as they have gained in real life, Ms Sim told reporters after an engagement session at the MCI Building on Monday, which is International Women's Day.
There were three broad categories of online harms raised during the discussions: The non-consensual publication of intimate images and footage online; unwelcome messages and interactions ranging from sexual harassment to online grooming; and websites or online businesses that are linked to vice, or encourage vice and harm to women and girls.
"We're looking for would-be projects that are actionable, and which we can see representatives from the public, people and private sectors working on together. I think we're seeing the beginnings of that," Ms Sim said. "It is also my hope that we can eventually create and launch an Alliance for Action that is focused on this issue of online harms that are targeted at women and girls."
She added that a few stakeholders are already conceptualising projects on the issue.
Those who have taken part in the conversations include representatives from the IT sector, tech companies, parenting interest groups, students and women's groups. She emphasised that both men and women have been involved.
Facebook's head of public policy in Singapore and ASEAN, Ms Clara Koh, who attended the session on Monday morning, said that the company is very committed to women's safety and sees itself being involved with the AfA on online harms.
"This is really the start of many more conversations around how different stakeholders in Singapore can come together to work on these challenges that we are facing here," said Ms Koh, without giving more details.
Facebook has tripled the number of people it hires around the world to deal with safety and security in the last few years to 35,000, she said.
"The first thing is we invest in technology - artificial intelligence - to help us with proactive detection of content that violate (our) policy," she said.
"Second is our users, you know, hoping that they will report to us more content that they find violates our standards on the platform. And finally, making sure we have human reviewers ... who are hired for different languages and cultural sensitivities."
Another participant, Mr Tan Boon Siong, 51, a father of three girls and a boy, said that he thinks that developing the parent-child relationship is another thing to focus on.
While more regulations or tech solutions can be introduced, perpetrators will always come up with new ways to reach their victims, said Mr Tan, who is in the manufacturing industry.
"I think we want to create a relationship is close enough so that the girls or the son is able to share with (the parents) openly if they encounter any problems," he said.
Alliances for Action or AfAs are cross-sector groups involving government agencies, industry and other organisations that are formed to explore and execute new ideas in specific areas. AfAs for industry groups, work-life harmony and digital inclusion are among those that have been formed.
The AfA on tackling online harms would support wider inter-agency conversations on women's development, said MCI. Singapore is currently doing a full review of women’s issues, which will culminate in a White Paper by the first half of this year.