No foreign interference in recent General Election, but laws under review: MHA
But ministry is reviewing if there is a need for more legislation to keep pace with evolving foreign interference tactics
No instances of foreign interference were observed in the recent general election, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
But it also warned that social media and online gaming may be used to spread fake news and influence opinions.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, an MHA spokesman said the risk of foreign interference will only increase moving forward.
"Methods can include disinformation and sentiment amplification, and these can be propagated via a variety of platforms, including social media and online games," she said.
"The public should exercise vigilance. They should seek information from trusted news sources and avoid spreading unverified information."
In an earlier joint reply to TNP, MHA and the Elections Department (ELD) said MHA was reviewing whether additional legislation was needed to ensure Singapore's laws keep pace with foreign interference tactics.
There are several measures in place to safeguard local politics.
These include the Political Donations Act, which prohibits election candidates and political parties from accepting foreign funding.
MHA and ELD also engaged all the political parties in the recent election to draw their attention to the dangers of foreign interference, and advised them on precautionary measures they could take.
The agencies said the Government has technical capabilities and processes in place to detect and respond to illegal activities.
There have been recent examples of activists moving beyond social media to other media to spread their messages.
In April, science and technology magazine Wired UK reported that Hong Kong activists were embedding protest messages in Nintendo's popular Animal Crossing game.
Singaporean activist Kirsten Han also used the game in April to call for the Internal Security Act to be abolished and to support climate change protesters here.
Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said the influence of online games cannot be discounted, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
"What it does is to engage the hearts and minds of the players through a mode they indulge in," he told TNP. "Online games can be more insidious as hardly anyone expects it to be a tool."
He described the use of games to influence public discourse as online cloak-and-dagger activity.
"It's a novel terrain for the security agencies. The officers will have to play the games themselves to understand how they operate," Associate Professor Tan added.
Some gamers have large followings, giving them a ready audience to share their opinions on everything from gaming peripherals to current affairs.
But professional e-sports player Wong Jeng Yih, 30, better known as NutZ from the game Dota 2, believes their influence is largely limited to game-related topics.
"Gamers can influence their followers. But if a gamer starts talking about politics, I think viewers will just take it with a pinch of salt. They follow gamers because of their expertise, not their beliefs," he said.
But Prof Tan feels online games have the potential to influence and shape political discourse in subtle ways, especially among the younger groups.
"It's about subliminal messaging ultimately," he said.