The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has found no instances of foreign interference during the recent general election (GE), though it says that the risk of this happening will increase in the future.
In response to queries, MHA said to The New Paper (TNP) that online gaming and social media may be used as platforms to spread fake news and influence voter opinions. A ministry spokesperson said, “Methods [of foreign interference] can include disinformation and sentiment amplification, and these can be propagated via a variety of platforms, including social media and online games.”
However, despite finding no foreign interference in the GE, TNP also noted that MHA together with the Elections Department (ELD) has earlier said that the MHA would be reviewing the need for additional legislation to ensure that the country’s election laws are updated to deal with evolving foreign interference tactics.
Both parties also said that it had engaged all political parties in the recent GE to illuminate to them the dangers of foreign interference and what measures they can take to guard against it. They added that the government is equipped with technical capabilities and processes to detect and respond to such illegal activities.
Curiously, however, the ELD has still yet to respond to TOC’s enquiries or make a statement regarding the police report filed by TOC editor Terry Xu who filed a report against commentary Facebook page Critical Spectator which is run by Polish national Michael Petreaus on 7 July.
Mr Xu, in his report, cited the Parliamentary Election Act which forbids persons who are not citizens of Singapore from taking part in election activity. There was also an ELD advisory urging people to lodge a police report should they detect anything that could be “indicative of foreign interference in the GE”.
Mr Petraeus had made three election-related posts during the campaign period on 5, 6, and 7 July. The first commented on the issue of GST—which was a prominent issue during the campaign—while the other two were in relation to Workers’ Party’s (WP) candidate, now-MP of Sengkang GRC Raeesah Khan.
Even before Mr Xu’s report, a citizen named Ng raised the same issue to the ELD. Mr Ng told TOC that he had reached out to the ELD via email about the Critical Spectator page and Mr Petraeus running “politically charged articles which actively seek to shape the political narrative”.
Two days later, Mr Ng received a reply from the ELD saying they would look into the matter, though without specifying that any action would be taken against Mr Petraeus.
It’s worth noting that several days after Mr Xu’s police report was filed, Facebook removed Critical Spectator from its platform for “violating” the site’s policy. And yet, the ELD still has not addressed this matter.