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Singapore’s Proactive Approach to Online Trust and Safety

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In today’s cyber age, the prevalence of harmful online content poses significant threats to individuals’ well-being and societal trust. The Singapore government is actively working to enhance national cybersecurity measures, prioritising the protection of citizens’ data and privacy in an increasingly digital landscape.

Recognising the urgency to address new forms of online harms, including misinformation and content manipulation, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) in Singapore is taking a proactive stance with the launch of the Online Trust and Safety (OTS) Research Programme.

At the heart of the OTS programme is the Centre for Advanced Technologies in Online Safety (CATOS), hosted by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). CATOS is poised to become a focal point, bringing together expertise from research partners, industry practitioners, and companies in the online trust and safety sector.

CATOS is dedicated to developing resilient technological capacities to counteract online threats, encompassing misinformation and content that poses risks to individuals’ well-being. This SG$ 20 million initiative, funded under Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan, will bolster local capabilities and foster a safer digital environment.

Scheduled for an official launch in the first half of 2024, CATOS will kick off with the inaugural OTS forum. This forum will showcase the expertise of international OTS speakers and unveil the first iteration of OTS technology solutions developed by CATOS, ready for trial and adoption. As the launch date approaches, more details about this groundbreaking initiative will be revealed.

CATOS will channel its efforts into developing Singapore’s technology leadership in the online trust and safety domain. The program has outlined three primary objectives:

Harmful Content Detection: CATOS aims to build and customise tools to effectively detect harmful content, including deepfakes and non-factual claims. This technology will play a crucial role in curbing the dissemination of false information and safeguarding online users.

Societal Vulnerabilities Identification: The centre will work on identifying societal vulnerabilities and crafting interventions, such as flagging or correcting misinformation. By reducing users’ susceptibility to harmful online content, CATOS seeks to create a safer online environment.

Trust by Design Technologies: CATOS will explore and test “Trust by Design” technologies, including watermarking and content authentication. These innovations aim to embed trust into the design of online content, ensuring authenticity and reliability.

Since April 2023, CATOS has been actively engaging local researchers, technology developers, and industry stakeholders to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities in online trust and safety. Through workshops and seminar events, CATOS has successfully built a professional OTS community network, boasting over 100 participants from academia, industry, and public agencies. The multidisciplinary collaboration involves scientists, engineers, operations staff, and adjunct members, with more than 30 professionals contributing to CATOS’s initiatives to date.

MCI envisions CATOS as an effective platform to harness both local and global capabilities, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. By facilitating partnerships and leveraging the expertise of various stakeholders, CATOS aims to enhance Singapore’s resilience against online harms and emerging threats.

OpenGov Asia reported that the Singapore Police Force’s mid-year statistics for scams and cybercrime in 2023 indicate a troubling increase in online scams. In response, the government is introducing a comprehensive set of measures to counter this growing threat and ensure a secure online environment for citizens.

Singapore’s initiative with the OTS Research Programme and the establishment of CATOS reflects a forward-thinking approach to addressing the evolving challenges in online trust and safety.

As technology continues to advance, such proactive measures are essential to create a digital landscape where users can navigate safely, free from the harmful impacts of misinformation and online manipulation. The launch of CATOS is a significant step towards achieving this vision, promoting a secure and trustworthy online environment for all.


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