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KUALA LUMPUR – “From another (chat) group. But don’t know whether it‘s true or not.” This message is commonly received by social media users from fellow netizens through WhatsApp.

The sender of the message seems to conveniently let the recipient think for himself whether the information shared is true or not, while it’s very clear that its validity has not been ascertained. But the fingers work faster than the mind, causing news to spread fast and which could hurt others.

The failure of netizens to verify information received is a serious matter and is even seen as a national problem, as it often threatens harmony. This problem is not restricted to Malaysia as it happens all over the world where the people are active social media users.

The thing is, not all social media users are unaware of this as many more do know, but are being irresponsible when using social media platforms that include Facebook, blogs, Instagram and WhatsApp.

As a result, the dissemination of fake news and slander has become so widespread that each day, social media is flooded with fake news, chain messages and slanderous statements.

In curbing the viralling of fake news in Malaysia, one of the initiatives made by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was setting up the portal. Launched in March 2017, this portal is seen as capable of helping the public obtain valid information and it was developed as a one-stop centre and archive for them to verify and channel the information received online.

This effort in educating the public to verify news through has gained positive response, with 1,577 pieces of information received from the public for verification.

MCMC Advocacy and Outreach Division senior director, Eneng Faridah Iskandar said since its launching, the portal had been receiving at least six pieces of information daily from members of the public who doubted the validity of these information.

“Besides checking on the validity of information received, the public can also channel dubious information they received to this portal or for MCMC to relay such information to other agencies for verification,” she said when met at a roadshow at Dewan Keda Relau, Bandar Baharu, Kedah, recently.

She noted that between 2015 and 2017, MCMC received 235 complaints from various quarters and individuals and who were from different backgrounds and ages on fake content and news, with 101 investigation papers opened, out of which, six cases were taken to court.

At the same time, MCMC blocked 79 websites, portals and blogs that spread fake news and information.

“When the public receives viralled news or information, they should first verify it with the portal and if the information is not available from this portal, they can relay it to MCMC for verification,” said Eneng Faridah.

She said there was also the trend of re-viralling stale fake news even after clarifications had been given.

“If the public reports it to MCMC, we will update it on the portal with clarification given,” she said.

Eneng Faridah said to date, MCMC had collaborated with 22 ministries and more than 100 government agencies for the information verification process.

For this process, a special committee known as Online Working Group–Unverified News Online, was set up to relay the viralled news to the relevant agencies to obtain verification.

“Clarification or denial is made first by referring to sources such as media releases, statements on the official websites of ministries, government departments or agencies involved, as well as statements published on social websites like Facebook and Twitter,” she said.

According to her, the special committee was viewed as being effective in clarifying issues due to their understanding of issues under their areas of jurisdiction.

“For example, the food issue is closely connected to various ministries and government agencies, and the public need not search around for verification as everything is managed by this committee,” said Eneng Faridah.

She said some issues that involved a number of ministries, might take a little bit more time for verification but a period of 24 hours was given for the agencies to give feedback.

“Although public awareness of the effects of fake news has increased, there are still some irresponsible individuals who take the opportunity to sensationalise issues.

“For instance, there was public shock over the recent EPF building fire outbreak (in Petaling Jaya) and immediately there was a lot of speculation over the incident viralled on social media including WhatsApp.

“However, MCMC found that the speculation was handled well by the agencies concerned, giving prompt statements so as to counter the baseless allegations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Eneng Faridah urged the public to subscribe to the portal via email to receive the notification so as to have access to the information that were updated on the portal.

Apart through the portal, MCMC is actively holding roadshows across the country in educating the public against fake news. – BERNAMA

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