The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill was passed in Parliament on 4 October 2021. The Bill will strengthen our ability to prevent, detect and disrupt foreign interference in our domestic politics conducted through hostile information campaigns and the use of local proxies. Here are three things you should know about the Bill.
1. Singapore’s politics are for us to decide
The Bill is driven by the philosophy that Singapore’s politics are for Singaporeans to deal with. This is especially important given the modern ease of communications, increased interactions and travel have allowed spying and subversion to increase in scope and intensity.
2. Subversion is a serious global issue
Foreign states could use hostile information campaigns to polarise society and incite public disorder, keeping the target country in a constant state of turmoil..
The Internet has also created a powerful new medium for subversion, with countries actively developing their attack capabilities. New communication tools have facilitated non-kinetic forms of attack and make hostile information campaigns harder to detect. For example, bots and digital ads can easily be bought to spread harmful information. Foreign actors can also blend their activities with those of authentic online users, giving audiences in the target country a false sense of reality.
3. Singapore’s situation is easily exploitable
Singapore’s unique racial and religious mix is easily exploitable by other countries. In recent times, Singapore has been subjected to cyber attacks and cyber manipulation. Such campaigns seek to build up different narratives, conditioning people to think in certain ways, particularly on foreign policy issues, and often appealing to a larger racial identity, beyond the Singaporean identity.
Recent examples of cyber attacks include the hacking campaign in 2018 that targeted SingHealth’s databases and saw hackers stealing the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients, including those of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Between 2016 and 2017, Singapore also experienced a coordinated hostile information campaign that attempted to undermine our foreign policy position. Online commentaries and videos were uploaded by social media accounts which had lain dormant for many years.
Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill
The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill will strengthen our ability to prevent, detect and disrupt foreign interference in our domestic politics conducted through hostile information campaigns and the use of local proxies.
Read the Second Reading Speech by Minister K Shanmugam
Read the Second Reading Speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs
Read the Second Reading Speech by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs
Read the Wrap-up Speech by Minister K Shanmugam
MHA Website: Countering Foreign Interference
Foreign Interference: An Old Threat in a New Form
Foreign Interference: Countering Attacks on Our Social Resilience
RSIS Conference on Foreign Interference Tactics and Countermeasures: Speech by Minister for Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam (25 September 2019)