Monday 30 April 2012

Social media is a double-edged sword: DPM Teo at National Community Engagement Programme (CEP) Dialogue 2012

By Qiuyi Tan, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Apr 2012

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said social media is a double-edged sword for social cohesion.

He was speaking at the annual dialogue for the Community Engagement Programme, a national social cohesion and crisis response network.

DPM Teo said the very same Internet that connects Singaporeans can also isolate people and disrupt social harmony.

"Anonymity on the Internet emboldens people, encouraging them to take on more extreme views than they might otherwise. The Internet also amplifies the extreme views even though they might be in the minority, and virtual mobs form to cheer or jeer, which only help to accentuate the differences, polarise and inflame emotions further," he said.

Some 600 community, business and youth leaders, and several government ministers joined the dialogue on Singapore's social challenges.

Online behaviour, especially on social media, was a recurrent theme across all the five dialogue groups.

"If we believe that the majority of Singaporeans are rational and calm in our responses, then surely this will be reflected in the way we relate to each other, be it on the social media space or mainstream media. One of the conclusions from my group was that all of us have this responsibility. At the end of the day, you can't have one set of rules being imposed on a community, if the community does not own that set of rules," said Singapore Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Chan said he hopes netizens will come forward to collectively shape the norms of online behaviour that are acceptable for Singaporeans.

Technology was one of three driving forces Mr Teo said can have a profound impact on Singapore's social resilience.

Another driving force - immigration. Mr Teo said Singapore needs to pay "extra attention" to new immigrants who are ready to sink their roots here. He urged Singaporeans to play their part in making new citizens feel more welcome.

Extremism, too, remains on the radar.

Mr Teo said the extremist threat includes self-radicalised "lone wolves", like Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people last year.

But this threat can also rally people together in the fight against terror, and this is where regular dialogues can play a useful role in strengthening the common ground across Singapore's different racial and religious communities.

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