Have you ever been fooled by fake news?
It was right after Malaysian icon Lee Chong Wei beat Lin Dan in the semifinals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
There was an open letter from Lin Dan exclaiming Chong Wei as his “brother” and congratulating him (Chong Wei) for his win.
It seemed too good to be true.
But we live in a world of fantasy and that kind of news definitely gives us a warm fuzzy feeling in the heart.
So without checking and confirming its authenticity, we buy the news – lock, stock and barrel.
And lo behold! What a slap in the face when it was declared the very next day that it was fake news.
It was the same feeling I had when there were news of the following:
- New currency notes in Malaysia
- An increase in road tax
- EPF was blocking withdrawals
- There would be a nationwide power cut on Dec 18
All turned out to be fake.
They were all on social media but can you tell the difference between real and fake news?
According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), many still cannot tell the difference.
At MCMC’s media literacy classes for about 900,000 people held in 2016 at 700 1Malaysia Internet Centres (PI1M), examples of fake stories involving MH370, celebrity news and the US presidential election were shown.
The agency was shocked to find out that most could not tell the difference between real or fake stories.
Despite the fact that the fake websites were not even as sophisticated as those in the United States, but as long as it reads like something from a newspaper, they can’t tell the difference.
Speaking to The Star, MCMC advocacy and outreach senior director Eneng Faridah Iskandar says people are beginning to wise up (to fake news) but it can’t happen without a focused education programme.
Malaysia has a high user and penetration rate, but its users are still not media-literate.
This is especially worrying because the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report revealed that 69% of Malaysians get their news from social media.
Malaysia is the second biggest social media news consumer in Asia Pacific behind Hong Kong.
The country also has one of the highest Internet and social media penetration rates in the region, but getting information from only one source could open Malaysians to a higher risk of misinformation.
So how do we tackle this fake news phenomenon?
Leading the way is a recently-launched website to help the public verify the authenticity of “questionable” articles with the authorities.
Sebenarnya.my, which was unveiled on March 16 by MCMC, is an online tool which allows the public to share unconfirmed news items spread on social media, short messaging services and websites with relevant government agencies.
The authorities will then verify the articles in question and respond to the items swiftly.
Taking on the role of “clarifying” fake news is also the media including Star Online which recently highlighted on its main page an article entitled:
“Viral message on hospital offering free medical screenings a hoax”
KPJ Damansara Specialist clarifying on its official Facebook page on May 25 that that the message purportedly offering free mammogram and ultrasound screenings is in fact a fake.
The hospital also informed members of the public to refer to its official social media channels for authentic promotions.
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By Anne Edwards
(Writer began her career in Journalism in 1992 at The Star Publications, after which she moved on to Broadcasting at TV3, RTM, NTV7 & Astro. She was the Head of Production, News, Current Affairs & Programs at Bernama TV from 2009 – 2012. Prior to that in 2008, she joined Bernama TV as Executive Producer, Host & Anchor. She was last sighted at Bloomberg TV Malaysia as Managing Editor)