“Pixels and Possibilities” – Nurturing Safety, Resilience, and a Future in Esports – Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 22 September 2023

Professor Tan Tai Yong

Lt. Col. Dana Humaid

Mr. Dennis Ooi

Ladies and gentlemen


1. A very good morning to all of you. I am very happy to be able to join you and thank you for inviting me to the Symposium today. 

2. I am very honoured to be here, amongst fellow academia, international experts, and esports enthusiasts.

3. Today’s event is conducted in a hybrid format, a testament to how technology has transformed our way of life. 

4. Across the globe, people are leading hyperconnected lives.

5. Gaming, a popular recreational activity, is one of the platforms that fosters such connections. 

Benefits and Dangers of Gaming

6. We are familiar with the benefits of gaming.

Benefits to Individuals

7. It is a source of fun and entertainment. 

8. Gamers can also develop important competencies, such as teamwork, problem-solving, and skills, like livestreaming, game development and digital content production. All useful in this digital era. When I meet parents, they always ask me, I want my kids to be creative, agile and relevant to the world; but they are also concerned about the harmful effects of gaming. So I am happy you are having this symposium, which provides a platform for us to bring forth the benefits of gaming, while as much as possible minimise or remove the negative impact.

Benefits to Communities 

9. By providing a platform for social interaction, collaboration, and learning, gaming also builds community by bringing people with common interests together.

10. While we enjoy the good that gaming brings, we need to also understand the potential harms to better prepare and safeguard our gaming community.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

11. Gamers may encounter cyberbullying, such as verbal abuse in multiplayer lobbies and in-game chats. 

12. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Communications and Information in 2022 on Singapore residents aged 15 years and above found that sexual content, violent content, and cyberbullying were the top three types of content that respondents felt the young needed to be protected from the most.[1]  

13. Female gamers face the brunt, and this was highlighted in Maybelline’s “Through Their Eyes” social experiment in Australia.

(a) As part of this social experiment, two male gamers used a voice modification software to step into the shoes of female gamers. 

(b) Not only were they often ignored by other players, they also suffered abusive comments and other offensive sexual suggestions. 

(c) In the video, the male gamers were visibly distraught, and they shared that this experience was vastly different from their usual gaming experience. 

(d) Just imagine going through this on a regular basis.

14. Cyberbullying has serious adverse consequences, such as diminishing self-esteem and increasing feelings of helplessness and anxiety. 

15. We have also heard of heartbreaking stories of cyberbullying victims who committed suicide, underscoring the grave consequences of such harm. 

Hate Speech

16. Another harm that gamers are exposed to is hate speech, which spread, incite, promote, or justify hatred based on intolerance. 

17. Repeated exposure to hate speech can increase people’s prejudices, feeling of being threatened and propensity to violence. 

18. It can desensitise people, disengage their sense of morality, and normalise behaviour that is otherwise unacceptable.[2]  

19. This leads to a slippery slope where people may start to dehumanise a specific group, classifying them as sub-human, leading them to justify any violence inflicted on the group.[3]  

20. For example, there is a Discord forum called “Unloved”, which as of May 2023, hosts about 150 people who identify as “incels”.[4]  

(a) This forum is openly misogynistic and there is even a sub-group that promotes sexual assault.

(b) The members also joke about school shootings. 

21. Hate speech seeds dangerous behaviours, which brings me to my next point on extremism.


22. At the Ministry of Home Affairs, we are concerned about the exploitation of online gaming platforms by extremists.

23. Extremists have misused online gaming platforms by disseminating their ideological beliefs through video games and using in-game communication features to recruit vulnerable gamers. 

24. According to a 2023 report by the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, which conducted a survey in 2022 in five of the world’s major gaming markets, 1 in 2 people who played online multi-player games reported encountering extremist statements in the games.[5]   

25. In January this year, a 16-year-old Singaporean youth was issued with a Restriction Order under the Internal Security Act. 

(a) The youth was self-radicalised by online ISIS propaganda and engaged in ISIS-related discussions with other social media users. 

(b) The youth joined multiple ISIS-themed servers on Roblox, where the virtual game settings replicated physical ISIS conflict zones. 

(c) He took the pledge of allegiance to an in-game “ISIS leader”, as well as created and disseminated ISIS propaganda videos on social media using his Roblox game footage.

26. This case illustrates how our youths can be influenced by extremist ideas that spread on seemingly innocuous gaming platforms. 

(a) It sounds a blaring alarm for us to pay more attention to our children’s online activities. Essentially, it is important for us to keep a lookout. Many of these things happen at home and parents have to be mindful and aware and communicate regularly with our children, to make sure that they get the benefits of gaming and at the same time, know how to manage and navigate the gaming world. 

Singapore’s Approach

27. We need to safeguard the online gaming communities while concurrently harnessing the opportunities offered by esports and gaming. 

Harnessing Opportunities 

28. There is much potential to the esports industry. In Singapore, the Government supports this industry in various ways, such as:

(a) Providing local companies with financial support and mentorship through initiatives such as the Startup SG programmes;

(b) Building talent pipeline through courses provided by game design schools;
(c) Enabling a vibrant esports ecosystem through collaborations; and

(d) Building international mindshare through the hosting of international events such as the first Asian edition of Gamescom in 2020, The International last year and the inaugural Olympic Esports Week in June this year.

Safeguarding Gaming Community

29. To maximise the benefits of gaming and the potential of the esports industry, it is critical to ensure a safe gaming environment, just as it is in the physical space. 

30. After all, safety is the foundation of individual and societal well-being. 

31. Over the years, the Government has introduced targeted laws to enhance the safety of our online community. 

(a) For example, there is the Protection from Harassment Act to deal with online harassment;

(b) Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act to deal with falsehoods; and

(c) The amended Broadcasting Act to deal with egregious online content on online communication services, such as social media services. 

32. Beyond laws and regulations, public education will go a long way in encouraging healthy online habits, including providing people with the skills and knowledge to better navigate the online space. 

(a) The Ministry of Education’s refreshed Character and Citizenship Education curriculum teaches students the dangers of addictive behaviours, such as excessive gaming. They are also taught the importance of exercising self-control, and to explore healthy leisure activities. 

(b) National Library Board’s S.U.R.E. programme – which stands for “Source”, “Understand”, “Research”, “Evaluate” – provides guidelines on evaluating online content. 

33. The Government is also collaborating with community stakeholders. 

(a) The Ministry of Home Affairs has worked with the Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association on combating extremism in gaming platforms through the SGSecure movement, such as by incorporating SGSecure content in ITE Central’s Sports & Wellness module.

(b) The Singapore Police Force has also worked with industry partners to introduce the Online Industry Safety and Security Watch Group.

(i) One of its workstreams focuses on supporting the development of guidelines, frameworks, and industry standards to create safe online communities.

34. The Ministry of Communications and Information is studying additional measures to enhance safety on other online services, with the objective of keeping young users safe across the online services which they use frequently. 

(a) Proposals being considered include a Code of Practice for app stores. 

Importance of the Symposium

35. Beyond the authorities, everyone plays a role in safeguarding ourselves, and each other, from the sources of harm on gaming platforms. 

36. We encourage gamers to be discerning, and practise responsible gaming, and arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge and skills on how to protect ourselves in the online gaming world. 

37. Parents can also participate in your children’s online gaming activities as a non-intrusive moderator and educate them on how to maneuver and manage the risks. 

38. Thought leaders, academics, and international bodies can help us better understand this global phenomenon with research, and to provide platforms, like this symposium today, to share research and best practices. 

39. I would like to thank the Singapore University of Social Sciences, Secure Communities Forum, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, and the Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association for organising this inaugural symposium, where we can glean insights from various stakeholders, exchange best practices, widen our networks, and find opportunities for collaboration. 

40. We can also look forward to tangible outcomes from the brainstorming and subsequent sharing of ideas in the afternoon programme. 

41. I would like to thank all of you sincerely, for making this possible. While we can have laws, legislation, restrictions or block harmful sites or gaming platforms, but nothing beats community participation, where everyone has a stake in this and want to play a part, to bring out the best of the gaming platforms, so that they not only provide entertainment, but help in the development of people. My sincere thanks to all of you for creating this platform. We want to continue to partner you, to continue to keep Singapore and our people safe and secure. 

42. Let’s participate actively and co-create solutions to better safeguard our online gaming communities while enjoying the fun of gaming.  

43. I wish you all a fruitful symposium. Thank you for having me.

[1] Online poll conducted by MCI in June 2022 with more than 1,000 Singaporeans to understand general perceptions of harmful online content and online safety. 

[2] Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, “Ministerial Statement on Restricting Hate Speech to Maintain Racial and Religious Harmony in Singapore”, 1 April 2019.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Steven Lee Myers and Kellen Browning, “Extremism Finds Fertile Ground in Chat Rooms for Gamers”, The New York Times, 18 May 2023

[5] “Gaming the System: How Extremists Exploit Gaming Sites and What Can Be Done to Counter Them”, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, May 2023. The five major gaming markets surveyed were United States, Britain, South Korea, France. and Germany.