New police watch group to share counter-terrorism info with tech firms
The fight against terrorism in Singapore received a boost yesterday with the launch of a new group that will share relevant and timely counter-terror data between technology companies and the police.
The Online Industry Safety and Security Watch Group (Online iSSWG), a collaboration between the Singapore Police Force and Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), will also promote greater exchange of information to fight online crime and enhance public awareness of scams.
The coalition includes big names in the tech world such as Facebook, Google and Grab.
Speaking at the watch group's launch, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said terrorism has expanded its influence via online channels, with serious consequences in the real world.
He cited the attacker who killed more than 50 people in the 2019 shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, who had formed his views from the Internet and was emboldened by others he met in extremist forums.
"Digital platforms offer new means to spread extremist propaganda to a wider group of communities. Their designs and algorithms can also create echo chambers and entrench extremist beliefs," Mr Tan said.
There is thus a need for Singapore to enhance its framework and devise new strategies to counter online security threats, he said.
The Online iSSWG will allow the police to tap the AIC's network of 15 tech companies to obtain insights that can help fight terrorism and other online crimes.
In a media statement yesterday, the police said the watch group will also enhance public awareness of scam tactics and cyber safety.
Scams involving e-commerce, media impersonation, loans and banking-related phishing are areas of concern to Singapore.
The police said these four categories made up 71 per cent of the top 10 scam types reported in the first half of last year.
The watch group is the seventh set up by the police with industry partners to address industry-specific safety and security concerns, such as in the chemical, financial and hotel sectors.
The new watch group was welcomed by AIC members.
A spokesman for Facebook said: "For years, we have worked closely with a range of stakeholders in Singapore - including the Singapore Police Force - to inform and educate users on how they can stay safe online. We warmly welcome the formation of the Online iSSWG and Facebook looks forward to collaborating with the other members of the AIC on this new initiative."
Mr Tan said that criminals and terrorists will continue to be inventive and exploit the vulnerabilities of the virtual space, and it was imperative that the authorities here stay one step ahead of them.
"Our community partnerships must go beyond the physical sphere, involving business partners and entities online, to strengthen the ecosystem for a more effective and coordinated response to these threats," he said.