Igniting Singaporeans fighting spirit to fight a war without firing a shot

Visit the Singapore Discovery Centre for an exhibition that highlights the hard truths about online falsehoods and disinformation campaigns

FIGHTING a war without firing a shot?

Is that possible?

The ongoing “Our Next Battlefront” Total Defence special exhibition, which is being held until March 24, points out the misinformation and disinformation campaigns over the years and how we can guard against cyberattacks and the spread of online falsehoods.

The exhibition consists of three zones: (Zone 1) A walk through time. (Zone 2) The world is black, white and grey. (Zone 3) The future is in our hands.

“A walk through time” highlights 30 key incidents over the last 200 years with an emphasis on rumours and lies as a basis of conflict, says BG (Retired) Lowrence Chua, SDC executive director.

“The world is black, white and grey” defines propaganda and fake news as well as their impact on communities today. This section touches on the complexity of war and the need to guard against disinformation campaigns through digital media literacy.

“The future is in our hands” highlights the importance of guarding against communal tensions and how we can and must do our part. Disinformation campaigns target cracks in society, and it is important to avoid stereotyping people from different backgrounds so that these cracks do not form in the first place.

THREATS TO NATIONAL SECURITY

Since threats to national security now manifest themselves in the most innocuous ways, the exhibition itself employs subtle methods to engage audiences and get its message across, says BG Chua.

The exhibition taps on a treasure trove of multimedia sources – including oral history interviews, graphics and experts’ quotes highlighting incidents from the last 200 years.

Thought-provoking questions displayed throughout the exhibition also offer opportunities for self-reflection.

It’s hard to read the news today without encountering phrases like “fake news” and “deliberate online falsehoods”. While these phrases have only recently entered the collective consciousness, the objectives behind them – spreading propaganda, misinformation and disinformation – have been a key component of warfare for centuries.

For example, cyberattacks, like the recent breach of 1.5 million SingHealth patients’ personal data are further worrying ways technology can be used with malicious intent and how security threats now encompass the digital domain.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said last year that attackers have more avenues to disrupt and destabilise Singapore through physical and virtual threats, and stressed the importance of Total Defence.

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

The accessibility of digital technology and the reach of social media platforms mean that information – misinformation and disinformation – can be disseminated very quickly. Social media posts have the power to reach a global audience instantaneously, and their reach can be multiplied exponentially when shared over again.

“No longer is word-of-mouth or the printed word alone the cause of such conflicts. The evolution of technology has played a big part in the propagation of these campaigns. Digital media literacy, in this instance, is crucial,” says BG Chua.

Remember: One of the simplest, yet most effective ways to stop fake news in its tracks is to pause for a moment before forwarding a piece of news. The extra few minutes taken to fact-check a story or post can make all the difference between keeping a cool head and fanning the flames of discontent, even if it is done unintentionally.

“Most of us today are on at least one social media or online communication platform. It is a personal judgement call when you receive a piece of news; believe it and pass it on, or fact-check first and let the fake news stop at you,” he says.

Be mindful, that life in a multi-cultural society, especially one as diverse as Singapore, is an eye-opening and enriching journey. There are plenty of sights, sounds and tastes to enjoy, and plenty of friends from different backgrounds to make.

These differences, however, can lead to misunderstandings or worse, be exploited by disinformation campaigns. The “Breaking Biases” exhibit addresses the topics of stereotypes, subconscious beliefs and biases.

“Fake news is a stealthy menace and we must recognise the devastating magnitude of harm and impact it can potentially bring to our nation. Every one of us has the responsibility to guard against it and defend our country,” warns BG Chua.

“I hope the Total Defence special exhibition and activities we are organising here in the Singapore Discovery Centre can ignite the fighting spirit in all of us to combat our next battlefront.”

Keep your date at the special exhibition at the Singapore Discovery Centre at 510 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638365.

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