Singapore Advocacy Awards falls victim to DRUMS day after launch

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The following is a press release from the Singapore Advocacy Awards.

Senior government leaders in Singapore warned in late 2013 of a dire threat to the nation in the form of misinformation on the internet, which they termed DRUMS (Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation and Smears). They noted that this could weaken the country’s resolve and cause disunity.

The Singapore Advocacy Awards (SAA) has become the latest victim of this scourge, a day after it was officially launched.

An unidentified party set up a Facebook page on 7 January, appropriating images and content from the official SAA Facebook site and passing off the fake site as the real one. The majority of the more than 1,000 “likes” on the page were directed there by well-known troll site “SMRT Limited (Feedback)”, itself a fake website purporting to represent the Singapore public transport operator.

While most of the content duplicates what is on the official site, important information such as the date for nominations and nominations received differs from the official version.

The Organising Committee of the Singapore Advocacy Awards is closely monitoring the matter and considering if it should take action.

Said committee chair Constance Singam, “I still can’t believe someone designed an entire fake site for this award and put it up so soon after the launch. The fake page looks almost like the real thing, except with spelling and grammatical errors. Civil activism has long been ignored and neglected in Singapore. The fact that someone feels this is important enough to put in such hard work to troll gives us great hope for the future. Whoever did this should certainly be nominated for the award, the real one, for their contribution to raising public awareness. If I find out who they are, I’ll treat them to a pot of my famous curry. Good job!”

Committee treasurer Fong Hoe Fang, however, had some concerns. “Do we need to pay them for designing and hosting the page? Everyone knows that civil society organisations, from the ones helping battered women to those assisting exploited workers, are always short of cash. Tell them we don’t want the fake site if they ask for payment. They don’t know we got tight budget meh?”

Possibility of court action not ruled out

Said committee member Yap Ching Wi, “This is a very serious issue and the committee is considering taking the matter to court. In fact, our committee members Noor Effendy Ibrahim and Siew Kum Hong are on standby to book the badminton courts at Hougang Sports Hall and Toa Payoh Sports Hall once the trolling party responds with the desired time they would like to face us. We will probably lose the match because of our age but adversity and overwhelming odds have never discouraged Singapore civil society activists in the past.”

Added Fong, “Make sure you tell them that we can only see them in court weekdays 7am to 6pm, when rental is $3.50 per hour.”

Related Information: What is Civil Society?

Public understanding of the term “civil society”, like civil society itself, is not very developed in Singapore for a variety of reasons.

An academic definition of “civil society” would be “non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals that manifest the interests and will of citizens”. Or to put it another way, civil society includes anyone who is not part of the government who is out there helping others and making society better.

“Civil society” is not a “society” in the sense of the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Singapore Cancer Society, or even the Dead Poet’s Society. However, all of these organisations (and many more) are part of a larger “civil society”.

The Singapore Advocacy Awards is an effort by a broad cross-section of civil society players to recognise organisations and individuals from within the civil society space for excellence in making Singapore a better place (please visit the SAA website, the real one, for the rationale and the criteria).

Getting an award from the government is, of course, very nice. We understand that most even come with a free dinner. On the other hand, getting recognition from one’s peers, those who best understand the challenges and difficulties of advocating for positive change in Singapore, is, in every sense of the word, priceless.