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Facebook ties up with SG’s MCCY on online divisive narratives

Facebook, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), has launched its pilot #SpeakUpSpeakOut workshop. The workshop aimed to provide community and religious groups in Singapore with the skills and knowledge of best practices to promote social cohesion and resilience. This will enable them to better counter divisive online narratives. This #SpeakUpSpeakOut workshop was mooted after a dialogue session with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the subject of terrorism in July this year.

The threat of terrorism is a global challenge, and Singapore, as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, is not immune. Online radicalisation and extremist ideologies can polarise societies and cause rifts between communities – they are inimical to Singapore’s social cohesion.

More than 100 participants from community and religious organisations took part in the workshop held at Facebook Singapore. They learnt about building an online presence, and exchanged ideas and strategies on engaging the online community to combat online radicalisation and divisive narratives. The pilot session is the first of a series of workshops for the community organised jointly by Facebook and MCCY.

Speaking at the event, Mr Henry Kwek, GPC member for Culture, Community and Youth said, “Conversations and discussions in cyberspace are a part of everyday routines. It is thus important for our religious and community organisations to reach out to online communities, to build affinity and understanding across ethnic and religious lines. Besides promoting positive messages to support one another, we also need to speak out in one voice against divisive and sinister ideologies. To safeguard social cohesion, we also want to encourage partnerships between communities, corporations such as Facebook, and Government, because everyone has a part to play.”

Commenting on the workshop, Alvin Tan, Head of South East Asia Public Policy, Facebook, said, “We believe challenging extremist narratives online is a valuable part of the response to real world extremism. People use our platform to speak out against hatred and extremism, and to raise up positive and moderate voices. Counterspeech is only effective if it comes from credible speakers, so we partner with other organizations to amplify voices of people on the ground and counter divisive narratives. That’s why we’ve partnered with MCCY and community leaders to empower the voices that matter most.”

This is the latest workshop by Facebook in a long line of initiatives to build community resiliency and promote positive messages. These include a Countering Violent Extremism workshop with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy for policymakers, law enforcement, academia, and NGOs; counterspeech hackathons run with Affinis Labs in Manila, Dhaka and Jakarta; and an Facebook Live series, #ExtremeLives, with UNDP (United Nations Development Program) covering on-the-ground stories of violent extremism from those with first-hand experience.

These education programs are part of Facebook’s broader effort to make the platform a hostile place for terrorists, which includes clearly defined policies against terrorism and terrorists, the use of artificial intelligence to stop the spread of terrorism, human review and terrorism specialists, and industry and government cooperation.

Speaking at the workshop, Gullnaz Baig, Asia Pacific Head of Counterterrorism, Facebook, said, “At Facebook, we adopt a full spectrum approach to combating terrorism. At one end, we are absolutely committed to making Facebook a hostile place for terrorists, and at the other we support efforts by people to build stronger communities. The challenge for online communities is the same as it is for real world communities – to get better at spotting the early signals and to then challenge it effectively. We will continue to help people better use our platforms to speak out against hatred and divisiveness, and to amplify positive and moderate voices in response.”

Last week, Facebook announced that 99 per cent of ISIS and Al Qaeda-related terror content removed from Facebook is content it detects before anyone in its community has flagged it to Facebook, and in some cases, before it goes live on the site. Once we are aware of a piece of terror content, we remove 83 per cent of subsequently uploaded copies within one hour of upload. We reach out to law enforcement whenever we see a credible threat, and have law enforcement response teams available around the clock to respond to emergency requests. Over the past year, we’ve been able to provide support to authorities around the world that are responding to the threat of terrorism, including in cases where law enforcement has been able to disrupt attacks and prevent harm.

Facebook’s efforts to promote counterspeech and combat terrorism across the Asia-Pacific region include:
• Asia Pacific Countering Violent Extremism Workshop with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in April 2017 for 29 regional participants including policy makers, law enforcement, academia, practitioners and NGOs. The program examined ways to counter violent extremism online and offline through case studies and best practices. Representatives from Indonesia, UK, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Myanmar joined Facebook subject matter experts from London to share how Facebook is combatting CVE.

• P2P: Facebook Global Digital Challenge, which enlist Universities for a semester long program to produce organic counter-speech campaigns. In less than two years, P2P has reached more than 56 million people worldwide through more than 500 anti-hate and extremism campaigns created by more than 5,500 university students in 68 countries. In APAC, Facebook has run this in India and Indonesia. In Indonesia, an alumnus of this challenge has gone on to develop her own grassroots initiative to combat hate speech GEN KTP.

• Promoting positive speech hackathons to get students, activists, academics to use various methods like storytelling, technology, social media and online platforms to promote tolerance and inclusion. Facebook worked with Youth Ki Awaaz in India to run a two-day Digital Masala Challenge, and with Affinis Labs in the Philippines to run a three-day ‘Digital Halo-Halo’ hackathon.

• #ExtremeLives: In partnership with UNDP, Facebook has completed a season of five Facebook Live episodes aimed at promoting awareness, covering on-the-ground stories of violent extremism from those with first hand experience. Episodes in the pilot season covered countries across the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
• Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism outreach in South East Asia. Earlier this year, we announced the formation of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) — working with Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube to formalize our longtime collaboration to fight the spread of terrorism and violent extremism across our platforms. Because we know that terrorists will try a variety of ways to reach people online, we’re working with smaller technology companies around the world to share insights on the trends we see from terrorists and what’s working to stop them. Already, GIFCT has brought together more than 50 technology companies over the course of three international working sessions. In November, we held a GIFCT working group session in Indonesia with over 50 small and medium enterprises, civil society organisations and government agencies. Through GIFCT, we also engage with governments around the world and are preparing to jointly commission research on how governments, tech companies and civil society can fight online radicalization. This week, GIFCT announced that the shared industry hash database, where companies can create “digital fingerprints” for terrorist content and share it with participating companies now contains more than 40,000 hashes. It allows member companies to use those hashes to identify and remove matching content — videos and images — that violate our respective policies or, in some cases, block terrorist content before it is even posted.

• Increased regional expertise. Along with increased industry collaboration, Facebook continues to deepen its bench of internal specialists — which include linguists, academics, former law enforcement personnel and former intelligence analysts. They have regional expertise in terrorist groups around the world and also help Facebook build stronger relationships with experts outside the company who can help us more quickly spot changes in how terror groups and terrorism evolve, and its implications for our platforms.