Singapore — In Parliament on Monday (Aug 2), Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling warned against posting photos indiscriminately online, even when posters have good intentions and want to help out.
Ms Sun brought up privacy issues, and said that the photos may bring “unwanted attention to the vulnerable person.”
Instead, people who want to help should direct vulnerable persons to an officer from the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) social service offices. This would ensure that professional help is given, she added.
However, netizens responding to Ms Sun’s comments pointed out that the pictures show such vulnerable people exist and questioned MSF’s effectivity in helping everyone.
Ms Sun made her remarks in response to MP Denise Phua (PAP Jalan Besar GRC) concerning endeavours to help disadvantaged members of society such as the homeless, beggars and cardboard collectors.
Ms Phua also said that the MSF should educate the public, so they won’t post photos and videos of the disadvantaged on their social media accounts. She added that many of the pictures are uploaded without the subject’s permission.
“These kinds of efforts actually do not render sustainable help for the persons in need… and (are) sometimes not very respectful of those who need help,” said the Jalan Besar MP.
According to Ms Sun, “When you put up a video or you put up a photo, apart from the fact that you might be infringing on the privacy as well as the confidentiality of the vulnerable person, sometimes you may be bringing unwanted attention to the vulnerable person.”
Ms Sun also expressed concerns for the overall outcome for the vulnerable person, as unwanted attention could make family relationships worse.
And sometimes, these relationships are the cause of the vulnerable person’s problems in the first place.
There are schemes in place to help vulnerable people, including the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers network, as well as temporary shelters where the homeless can seek refuge and get help from social workers, who can aid them toward more permanent solutions.
As for vulnerable persons, Ms Sun said, “For tissue sellers and cardboard collectors, befriending groups from the Vulnerable-in-Community network engage them to find out their needs and bring them into the social support system if they are willing.”
However, Ms Sun’s remarks did not sit well with some netizens, who said the photos had to come from somewhere.
Some netizens pointed out the lapses in social services in Singapore.
One person pointed out that the photos are posted to create awareness of those who are suffering silently.
Others pointed out the places where the vulnerable can be found.
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