1. Members of the Sunlight AfA (or the Singapore Together Alliance for Action to tackle online harms, especially those targeted at women and girls) came together to celebrate its efforts aimed at making the online space safer for all, especially women and girls in Singapore over its one-year tenure.
2. At the event on 27 July 2022, Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo as well the AfA’s co-chairs Ms Sim Ann (Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law) thanked the AfA members for their commitment in carrying out the AfA’s work.
TACKLING ONLINE HARMS IN SINGAPORE
3. Launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) in July 2021, the Sunlight AfA focused on closing the digital safety gap and establishing support mechanisms for victims of online harms. Co-chaired by SMS Ms Sim Ann and SPS Ms Rahayu Mahzam, the AfA comprised 48 members from across the people, public and private sectors. As a whole-of-society effort, the Sunlight AfA also supports the national Digital for Life movement.
4. The AfA’s efforts have borne meaningful programmes and initiatives across its five key workstreams – Public Education; Research; Victim Support; Volunteerism and Partnerships; and Youth Engagement. In the past year, the AfA has:
i. Ascertained the impact of online harms in Singapore and areas for future research;
ii. Created greater awareness about online harms and digital safety;
iii. Mobilised and equipped individuals to support victims and survivors of online harms; and
iv. Strengthened the ecosystem and its capabilities to respond to online harms.
Ascertained the impact of online harms in Singapore and areas for future research
5 To deepen understanding on the prevalence of online harms and Singaporeans’ experiences and perceptions about the issue, the Sunlight AfA commissioned a sensing poll in January 2022. The poll, which collected responses from more than 1,000 Singaporeans, provided a baseline assessment of the scale and scope of online harms experienced in Singapore. This helped different stakeholders, including public agencies, to identify issues of concern and facilitate progress in the journey towards a safer Internet.
6 Building on the sensing poll findings, the AfA developed a roadmap to set the research agenda for online harms for Singapore’s research community. The roadmap seeks to support the community in designing studies to deepen Singapore’s understanding of online dynamics, craft potential interventions and assess their effectiveness.
Created greater awareness about online harms and digital safety
7 The Sunlight AfA also organised two webinars in February and March 2022 to raise awareness across stakeholders such as parents, families and youths about online harms and impart tips to Singaporeans on staying safe online. At the second webinar in March 2022, the Sunlight AfA launched its website (www.sunlightafa.org), which contains a consolidated list of online safety resources to help users find the information easily when needed. These included information on safety features and tools across social media platforms.
8 Sunlight AfA also partnered TOUCH Community Services to conduct focus group discussions (FGDs) with different target segments, such as students, young adults, parents, and educators to understand their views on online safety, gaps in existing public education efforts related to online harms, and how these gaps can be addressed. Conducted in June 2022, the FGDs found the following:
i. There was basic safety awareness among respondents across different profiles. Nonetheless, more could be done to equip target segments, such as young students and parents, to respond to online harms.
ii. There were opportunities to consolidate practical resources, align terminology on online harms and promote empathy towards survivors.
9 The FGD findings will inform the development of an education roadmap outlining recommendations on tailored public education programmes to equip attendees with media discernment skills and guide them on how to deal with inappropriate content.
Mobilised and equipped individuals to support victims and survivors of online harms
10 A pilot online harms workshop for students from the institutes of higher learning was conducted on 29 June 2022 by the Sunlight AfA’s Youth Engagement workstream to equip students with basic knowledge to recognise online harms and support their peers.
11 Given the challenges faced by helpline personnel in identifying and communicating with victims of online harms, the Victim Support workstream developed a list of online harms identifiers, which note various commonly-experienced online harms. These lay the foundation for a future helpline, and would be used to aid the training of helpline personnel after the AfA’s term.
12 To make legal support more accessible to victims of online harms, the Victim Support workstream also worked with the Law Society Pro Bono Services, which has committed a pool of about 100 volunteer lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance through legal clinics.
Strengthened the ecosystem and its capabilities to respond to online harms
13 To build up first responders’ capabilities to support victims and survivors of online harms, the AfA also partnered the Law Society Pro Bono Services to include chapters with case studies on online harms as well as information on police and court processes as part of an overall training manual. This manual would be used to facilitate training sessions for first responders, which would take place after the AfA’s term.
14 Inspired by the conversations and work started by the Sunlight AfA, several members from the Sunlight AfA established a new charity SG Her Empowerment Limited (SHE) to sustain efforts to tackle online harms in the longer-term. Announced on 12 April 2022, the charity will work with the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations to roll out support services for victims of online harms.
15 The Sunlight AfA has also contributed valuable feedback to MCI on the need for measures to tackle and address online harms. MCI has considered the views of the AfA as well as various stakeholders and are looking into two proposed Codes of Practice to enhance online safety for users in Singapore, especially young users. MCI has also launched the Public Consultation exercise for the Codes, and welcome members of public to provide views at https://go.gov.sg/feedbackonlinesafety.
16 For more information on the Sunlight AfA’s work, please click here for the Sunlight AfA’s final report.