• IGC 2nd Meeting in Canada

Singapore Parliamentarians Participate in the Second Meeting of the International Grand Committee in Canada

29 May 2019

Two Singapore Members of Parliament participated in the second meeting of the International Grand Committee (IGC), in Ottawa, Canada on 27 – 29 May 2019. They were Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, and Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, and Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs & National Development, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris - Punggol GRC represented Singapore. Both were members of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, and had also participated in the first meeting of the IGC in London last November.

The IGC comprises members of various national Parliaments, and is co-led by the Canadian Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and the UK House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The theme of the second meeting was “Big Data, Privacy, and Democracy.” There was broad consensus among Parliamentarians and experts that social media platforms had amplified, on an unprecedented scale, a range of harmful activities, encompassing not only disinformation, but also hate speech, foreign interference, and spread of other illegal content. Parliamentarians expressed strong concerns about the monopoly power of these technology companies, and how they had used their power to prioritise their growth over their responsibilities to society. Regulatory options proposed by experts and delegations included content moderation, and upstream measures relating to platforms’ algorithms, digital advertising transparency, and online anonymity.

Members of the IGC signed a Joint Declaration that underscored their commitment to addressing the range of challenges posed by digital platforms. They acknowledged the need to impose measures on social media platforms to prevent digital activities that threaten social peace and interfere in open and democratic processes.

Mr Edwin Tong and Ms Sun Xueling had the opportunity to question witnesses, which including global technology companies, experts, and regulators.

Besides Singapore, parliamentarians from Canada, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, Saint Lucia, and the United Kingdom, also participated.

Watch videos of the International Grand Committee Hearing:

  • Mr Tong’s exchange with Mr Roger McNamee, author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, on how speed is essential to stem the dissemination of disinformation, and the need for upstream measures relating to algorithms as content moderation alone cannot deal with the sheer scale of online disinformation: [View video extract here]

  • Ms Sun’s exchange with Mr Roger McNamee, on how tech companies bear responsibility for tragedies such as the shooting of mosques in Christchurch New Zealand, as their platforms make it easy for extremist views to thrive; and how online anonymity is part of the problem:
    [View Part 1 video extract here]
  • [View Part 2 video extract here]

  • Mr Tong’s exchange with Mr Neil Potts, Global Policy Director, Facebook, on how Facebook was unable to explain its failure to remove videos of incendiary sermons by the leader of the Easter terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka until only after the attack, despite news reports that the local Muslim community had flagged the videos to Facebook prior to the attack:
    [View Part 1 video extract here]
  • [View Part 2 video extract here]

  • Mr Tong’s exchange with Ms Ellen Weintraub, Chair of the US Federal Election Commission, on the relevance of concern over foreign interference not only in elections, but also in people’s everyday lives; and the need for greater regulation to ensure transparency over the source of what people see on social media: [ View video extract here]

  • Ms Sun’s exchange with Mr Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security, Mozilla Corporation, on how platforms had a long way to go in fulfilling their commitments to safeguard against foreign interference: [ View video extract here]