29 December 2019
The year 2019 that is about to end in two days time witnessed numerous fake news swirling on the social media and at times even reaching the mainstream media, thanks to perpetrators who have gone into overdrive spinning misinformation and the ignorant who made them viral.
Malaysians will recall how sensational untruths like three million Chinese nationals slipping into the country following a technical glitch at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in August sparked a frenzy on social media.
Another untruth concerned how Project IC 2.0 in Sabah was on, and that the Registration Department was distributing free Mykads to foreigners at various venues.
Then there was the fake news that the 5G bandwith is detrimental to human health and that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had issued a late night curfew on teenagers in an effort to curb social ills, much to the angst of the community.
Another “alternative fact” that Malaysians have to content with is the long list of claims that certain foods and food outlets are not halal, no longer halal or their halal status have been revoked by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in 2019.
The authorities countered the lies with truths through the media and many outlets including the sebenarnya.my portal that not only rebukes preposterous claims but also gives the true picture.
However, looking at how these fake news go viral, one may ask whether Malaysians are so gullible and end up as purveyors of misinformation.
A study conducted in September 2019 by Prof Datuk Seri Syed Arabi Idid and his research fellow Azrul Hisyam Wakichan of the International Islamic University Malaysia’s (IIUM) Electoral Studies Unit on the public perception of fake news found that Malaysians were well aware that fake news and real news were not the same.
Though the majority of the 1,960 respondents above 18 concurred that fake news is interesting to read or watch but they would not easily fall for them with 95 per cent saying they would dismiss any fake news and the majority would take the trouble to verify the authenticity of the news.
Equally, the study across the three major ethnic groups throughout the country – Malays, Chinese and Indians – also found that more than 95 per cent of the respondents were worried and want something to be done to stop the barrage of fake news as they fear its consequences on society.
If Malaysians can differentiate between fake news and real news, then how come fake news still spreads like wildfire? When asked on this, Syed Arabi told Bernama it is probably because of the speed fake news was transmitted through the digital mediums that catches Malaysians off guard.
“They too want to be fast and do not have the sufficient time to verify the facts, hence lose their rationality and end up as part of the fake news chain. By the time they realise their mistake, its too late,” he said.
Fake news is nothing new, its creators often have an axe to grind or it is just the figment of their imagination. Only that the new information communication mediums has provided them with greater outreach in confusing many from the truths and blatant untruths.
So lets start 2020 by thinking twice or doing cross checks before sharing any sensational news over the net to avoid spreading fake news. — Bernama