Sick­en­ing fake news

The Star Malaysia - - Front Page - lifestylet­[email protected]­ By AN­GELIN YEOH and QISHIN TARIQ

It’s not just Covid-19 that our govern­ment is up against. The other bat­tle is con­tain­ing the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion about the virus, which is ad­ding to the rakyat’s anx­i­ety and en­dan­ger­ing lives. The Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Min­istry has had enough. ‘We’re watch­ing,’ warns its min­is­ter.

PETALING JAYA: Fake news on Covid-19 is mak­ing Malaysians feel over­whelmed, anx­ious and stressed, says psy­chi­a­trist Dr Ana­suya Je­gath­evi Je­gath­e­san.

Staying at home could make peo­ple rest­less and hun­gry for news, but they could also end up read­ing more fake news than the gen­uine ar­ti­cle, she said.

“You can’t stop click­ing on the next ar­ti­cle or new videos be­cause you’re feel­ing some sort of adren­a­line or ex­cite­ment.

“But you will just end up feel­ing more anx­ious if they are fake news (ar­ti­cles),” said Dr Ana­suya, pro­gramme direc­tor of psy­chol­ogy at Tay­lor’s Univer­sity.

She be­lieves the older gen­er­a­tion are more in­clined to share fake news be­cause they are not aware that some peo­ple fal­sify in­for­ma­tion for “likes” on so­cial me­dia.

“The older gen­er­a­tion comes from a time when news was per­ceived to be al­ways true.

“But to­day, we have a cul­ture where peo­ple spread fake news on so­cial me­dia be­cause they get some sort of emo­tional kick from see­ing the num­ber of ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’,” she said.

Coun­sel­lor Faith Foo said, “Peo­ple do not know what to be­lieve any more. When fake news trig­gers a sense of false alarm, peo­ple panic and don’t think log­i­cally.

“They end up act­ing on im­pulse and choose to look at the prob­lem rather than the so­lu­tion.

“It is very dam­ag­ing at a time like this, when there is al­ready an in­tense feel­ing of anx­i­ety and stress,” she said.

Be­frien­ders Kuala Lumpur chair­man Justin Vic­tor said those who call are anx­ious about what is hap­pen­ing, so perhaps they are not prop­erly in­formed due to fake news be­ing cir­cu­lated.

“Fake news can add to emo­tional dis­tur­bance and cause un­nec­es­sary anx­i­ety, es­pe­cially dur­ing this time.

“Please be more con­sci­en­tious about shar­ing in­for­ma­tion or mes­sages with oth­ers,” he said.

Dr Ana­suya agreed: “If it’s not from an of­fi­cial source, then just don’t share it. Please don’t for­ward voice or text mes­sages be­cause some­one claims to have a ‘fam­ily mem­ber’ work­ing with the au­thor­i­ties.”

The Malaysian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Com­mis­sion (MCMC) said in a state­ment that it and the po­lice have recorded state­ments from five sus­pects al­leged to have spread fake news on Covid-19 via so­cial me­dia.

They were charged un­der Sec­tion 233 of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Act 1988 for im­proper use of net­work fa­cil­i­ties.

The reg­u­la­tory body said it is work­ing with the po­lice’s Cy­ber Crime Task­force to deal with mis­in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing Covid-19, which could cause con­fu­sion or panic.

Spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion is a crime and harsh ac­tion will be taken against those who do, said the com­mis­sion.

It also ad­vised the pub­lic to check the Sebe­ web­site or app to ver­ify any news on Covid-19.

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