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Fake news

The abuse of the internet and social media, including fake news, has caused the Malaysian government to take a tough stance on users. Recently, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) network security and enforcement sector chief officer Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin said that the commission has the capacity to prosecute those who spread fake news.

He added that action will be taken within 24 hours after the offence has been carried out on social media, if the complaints are found to have violated Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, the New Straits Times reported.

Industry players such as Stanley Clement, managing director, Society Malaysia, told A+M that "This is a much needed initiative, especially today as we see the rise of fake news on social media, with the audience being unable to tell the difference."

He added that the inability to spot fake news has been exacerbated by the rise of influencer marketing, which has shifted the view on credibility of information sources. However, Clement said the road to combating fake news will not be easy. While laws can be passed and systems put in place to monitor the activities on social media, the platforms ultimately fall beyond the jurisdictions of the government. He said:

Enforcement will be the core issue here.

He also hopes that the government's initiative to take a tough stance on the abuse of the internet and social media will last long.

Clement highlighted three things the government needs to consider to effectively put things in place, with the most important being working with the publishers. Clear guidelines on the parameters of regulation that help create an ecosystem that adds value to Malaysians, rather than curb freedom of expression, are also needed. Finally, the government needs to continue to engage with the public on online safety, he explained.

Nonetheless, Clement is of the view that the government's initiative will not have a major impact on brands and their social media or PR strategies, as the regulations should not curb freedom of expression.

"Brands have (or should have by now) a clear social media strategy that has guidelines on their do’s and don’t’s. Alongside this, it will be imperative for agencies to play a key role in ensuring social responsibility is maintained," he said.

Also weighing in on the conversation is Mark Worthington, managing director, Klareco Communications, who said that governments around the world are wrestling with how to combat fake news while striking the right balance between protecting citizens and censorship.

"No one has come up with the perfect answer yet, but with such vast quantities of online content, measures to raise news literacy and change online behaviour will be vital for any long-lasting solution," Worthington said.

Meanwhile Communications and Multimedia minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said earlier this week that MCMC will be responsible for monitoring social media. The move is in an effort to ensure that social media users and bloggers act responsibly, as they have been behaving “quite recklessly” lately with regards to their postings on the internet.

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