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Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information initiative to protect women online

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) is working to form a new Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) on tackling online harm, especially those targeted at women and girls, Senior Minister of State for Communications & Information Sim Ann said.

The minister 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, the minister told reporters.

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.

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.

The ministry said that they are looking for would-be projects that are actionable, and which they can see representatives from the public, people and private sectors working on together. Part of this is to create and launch an Alliance for Action that is focused on this issue of online harms that are targeted at women and girls. He 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. The minister emphasised that both men and women have been involved.

The international technology conglomerate head of public policy in Singapore and ASEAN, who attended the session said that the company is very committed to women’s safety and sees itself being involved with the AfA on online harms and this is 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, she added.

The international tech conglomerate said that it 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. The first thing is that they invest in technology – artificial intelligence – to help us with proactive detection of content that violates the company’s policy. Second is their users, hoping that they will report to the tech company more content that they find violates their standards on the platform. And finally, making sure they have human reviewers, who are hired for different languages and cultural sensitivities, the tech giant added.

In perspective, as reported by OpenGov Asia, SG Women in Tech (SGWiT) is an initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in partnership with the tech industry and community, aims to attract and develop girls and women for the exciting and dynamic Infocomm tech sector in Singapore. SGWiT believes in a diverse workforce, the importance of role models for inspiring interest in tech, and partnerships for a supportive ecosystem for women in tech.

The Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, also a patron of SGWiT, said that the initiative aims to encourage organisations to address the key motivators for young women to take up a tech career and for women tech professionals to continue to grow and thrive in the tech industry.

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