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Singapore ranks 4th globally in online civility

Technology and digital space are powerful tools that can empower people to achieve more; yet with every benefit that technology brings, it can also enable challenges. It has become commonplace to see hate speech, negative comments and alternative facts being posted and circulated online, and this, in turn, harms online civility.

In a tech giant’s latest Digital Civility Index (DCI) report, Singapore once again proved it’s a model nation in Southeast Asia (SEA), taking fourth place globally for its level of online civility. This also means that Singapore has the politest online presence regionally, in SEA. Singapore jumped up four spots in the latest study (currently in its fifth annual cycle), taking the number four spot, which was previously held by Malaysia.

The study, called the Digital Civility Index, follows a general trend for 32 territories globally, according to the study released by the company. The Netherlands tops in online civility, followed by Britain and the United States. Fourth place was Singapore, and No. 5 was Taiwan, which was newly added to the study. The study polled 16,000 teens and adults globally from April to May last year, including 500 people online in Singapore. Each territory was rated on a scale of zero to 100, with a lower score indicating lower exposure to online risks and a higher perceived level of online civility.

Singapore’s score was 59% last year, an improvement over 2019’s 63%. The global score of 67% last year improved from 70% in 2019. People in Singapore reported a sharp fall in online sexual risks experienced, from 30% in 2019 to 15% last year. Such risks include getting unwanted sexually explicit messages and images, online sexual advances and receiving unwelcome sexual teasing, jokes or flirting online or electronically.

There was also a drop in online risks to one’s reputation, from 18% in 2019 to 13% last year. These risks include getting doxed and having one’s personal and professional reputation tarred online.

Two other major online risks measured by the study, defined as being intrusive and behavioural, remained unchanged at 52% and 35% respectively for the country. Intrusive online risks include being contacted online without permission or consent, receiving hate speech and getting hoaxes, scams and fraudulent content. Some examples of behavioural online risks are being treated meanly, getting trolled, being cyberbullied and getting harassed online.

Several government initiatives may have paved the way for the high ranking of Singapore in the report. One of which is the government-formed Telecom Cybersecurity Strategic Committee (TCSC), a committee that is expected to publish a strategy for telecommunication operators to develop cybersecurity capabilities. It would also give other recommendations, including capability development, technology innovation, regulation, and international partnerships.

At the same time, the country’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) has collaborated with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to develop Cyber Safety: The Interactive Handbook. This new handbook provides readers with cyber tips to navigate cyberspace safely, includes ways to spot online scams, and shows how one can do their part under the new Total Defence pillar of Digital Defence.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Minister for Communications and Information reiterated its commitment to building a strong cybersecurity culture in Singapore, both in the public service and the private sector. Training the people to be aware of cyber threats, and effectively detect and respond to malicious cyber activities, is key.

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