Singapore

Hackathon to find solutions to protect women, girls from online harm

Forty teams will take on the challenge of coming up with solutions to make the online space a safer and kinder place for women and girls.

The community hackathon, which was launched yesterday, is the first project by the Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) to tackle online harm, especially those targeted at women and girls.

This initiative by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) is one of several Alliances for Action formed under the Singapore Together effort to get the public and private sectors involved in shaping policies, tackling challenges and seizing opportunities.

The AfA will take on gender-based harassment issues such as non-consensual one-to-many publication of images and personal details online, unwelcome one-to-one interactions online ranging from sexual harassment to online grooming and online platforms that encourage vice and harm.

The hackathon, a collaboration between MCI, DBS Bank and the Singapore judiciary, will see 40 diverse teams, comprising practising lawyers, law students, public officers and DBS employees trying to generate solutions over the next two months. Participants have to submit their proposals by Sept 17 and will pitch their ideas before a panel of judges on Oct 7. The winners will be announced on Oct 28.

The new AfA is co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann and Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information Rahayu Mahzam.

At the launch, Ms Sim said: "Over the past six months, the community, industry and Government have had meaningful conversations on how we can close the digital safety gap for women and girls in Singapore. I am heartened not only by the enthusiasm of stakeholders, but also by the quality of ideas they have put forth."

The AfA will focus on enhancing the freedom and safety of women and girls online by providing assistance to victims, creating a safer space online through education and shaping norms around responsible use of online spaces and digital devices. There were 124 cases involving technology-facilitated sexual violence in 2018, such as unwanted sexual messages, up from 46 cases in 2016.

Ms Rahayu said: "These incidents show that the Internet presents a double-edged sword, especially for women and girls. On the one hand, it provides vital spaces for individuals to seek new knowledge and opportunities for self-expression. On the other, it is increasingly a vector for abusers.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened this situation as people spend more time online, therefore increasing the exposure of vulnerable individuals to threats."

Those who are interested in tackling online harm and contributing to the alliance can indicate their interest at go.gov.sg/mciafa

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