IF someone forwards you something dubious online and you start asking yourself “Is this true?”, take a moment before you forward it to someone else. Chances are, it is not true — so don’t perpetuate scams or fake news.
What is fake news? Fake news is wrong, inaccurate reporting or propaganda with intention to deliberately misinform or delude the public.
Fake news is started by someone with a bad intention or agenda to cause disunity by creating racial or religious tension. To a certain extent, they can also be categorised as vandals.
“Do some research first before you take action,” said Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia chairman Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar.
CMCF is a self-regulatory body, established in 2001, to govern content and address content-related issues.
CMCF’s members are consisting of people in the industry, mainly advertisers, broadcasters, civic groups, content creators and distributors as well as Internet access service providers.
With faster Internet connection, people have quick access to news but how accurate is the information? With social media and the “share” button, it is easier to share information. But unless it comes from verified sources, it is most likely inaccurate.
“People have the tendency to want to spread news as fast as possible, be the first to do so or for the sake of getting more followers on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter,” said Ahmad Izham.
“Sometimes they don’t really care whether the news is real or fake.”
Ahmad Izham has been promoting self-regulation tirelessly with CMCF to combat the spread of fake news and at the same time educate the public.
Although fake news starts with the person who writes it, the damage is done by those who propagate it. Therefore, the public needs to know that a disclaimer on social media or chat apps doesn’t spare them from the law.
“The person who shares the fake news can get into trouble too,” added Ahmad Izham.
According to him, people believe “anything and everything” they read online.
“What’s worse, people will go to ‘war’ because of what they have just read on the Internet,” he said, adding that this is the reason why CMCF is working diligently to promote self-regulatory practice among Malaysians to curb news from unknown sources.
“Always ask yourself if the news you read comes from a verified source. After all, anybody can write anything on the Internet,” he said.
CMCF has introduced the “content code”, a guide on how to behave online.
“We want an open sky. We don’t want to censor the web. But you have to be responsible online,” said Ahmad Izham.
The content code is a compilation of good common sense behaviour that is the representation of the zeitgeist of the community.
People should behave on social media and online as they do with their family. Never think you can hide behind an anonymous name because “digital forensics will be able to find you!”.
Keeping fictitious news away is not a one-man job, it needs everyone’s attention, he added.
In addition to self-regulation, Ahmad Izham said the next step is to report fake news.
As long as it is electronic, anything that disturbs, annoys or harasses can be reported to CMCF.
“You can also report to MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) or the police. All reports will be investigated,” said Ahmad Izham.
CMCF executive director Mohd Mustaffa Fazil Mohd Abdan said that if it doesn’t get reported, it doesn’t get attended to.
“Upon receiving a report, the complaint bureau will investigate. The first step is to look at the complaint and see if it goes against the content code. We may have to forward it to either MCMC or the police, like in the case of stolen identity,” said Mohd Mustaffa.
An example of how fake news can cause distraught to a community was when the EPF building in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya caught fire.
Irresponsible quarters took to social media, seizing the opportunity to spread news, saying account holders would be unable to withdraw money for six months.
“Such action creates unnecessary panic,” he said. “Instead of sharing the ‘news’, verify it first.”
”We have a responsibility to share information that is vital — like using the power of social media to find a missing child,” said Ahmad Izham.
But always verify the source, he said, emphasising again that you can get into trouble if you share the fake news.
CMCF is promoting Disebalik Wajah, a campaign that not only creates awareness on cyber bullying, but also encourages responsible behaviour online.