Over the past several months ‘fake news’ has slowly become a buzzword that most if not all of us are aware of. If you follow developments in the US, you’ve probably come across Trump use the phrase on multiple occasions to address any story that he doesn’t agree with. What Trump defines as ‘fake news’ may be in question but the problem of ‘fake news’ is unquestionably real and has become a real concern. Last year we talked about how fake news was becoming a real problem, particularly on Whatapp.
Such a concern in fact, Malaysia is now trying to outlaw ‘fake news.’ The Malaysian Prime Minister has actually tabled a bill in parliament. According to The Anti-Fake News 2018 bill, anyone who publishes ‘fake news’ could face fines of up to $128 140, a ten-year jail sentence, or both. The Malaysian government has defined fake news as “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false.” This spreads to news mediums such as features, visuals and audio recordings on both digital publications and social media.
Why so harsh?
Upon seeing that it’s possible to get sentenced for up to 10 years you may be thinking that a ten-year penalty is too harsh but in all honesty, it might actually be fair. Fake news is not only affecting politicians but even businesses and individuals. Remember the message claiming that the man who had injected Cadbury chocolates with his HIV positive blood had been arrested? What do you think might have been the impact of that on Cadbury’s sales?
The impact of fake news can be far-reaching
The problem with fake news is that the impact of the fake news has impact in reality. When people consume news they form opinions concerning the people or brands in question and at the end of the day these opinions affect the companies bottom-line. One such example was a news story that claimed that an X-box One console killed a kid: According to the story the kid got his throat whilst ejecting a disc from the console. On the surface, this may seem like a trivial issue, but stories like this would impact X-box’s sales. A parent wanting to buy a console for their son/daughter may have wanted to buy an X-box but upon seeing that story instantly changes their mind. (The video game industry is a billion dollar industry: not as silly as you thought after all?)
When will we have laws preventing the spread of ‘fake news’?
Well, the issue of fake news in our country has yet to be discussed seriously in our country but going forward I think it is something that has to be addressed with more urgency than the issue has been afforded thus far. Some may prefer for us to ‘fix the economy first’ before we tend to minor issues such as ‘fake news.’ The current Minister of ICT and Cyber Security, Supa Mandiwanzira did note that the Cyber Security ministry was put in place to deal with fake news among other things so we will see what changes they propose on that front as they have been quiet thus far.
Governments will (most probably) abuse these laws!
The only problem with such laws is that they will give more power to already powerful leaders who will be able to get people who report on their activities in court. It’s a double-edged sword and in all honesty, placing laws to govern fake news might not be a very good move, especially if free speech is considered as important (which I think it is).
I guess for now the responsibility remains with publishers to try and give readers accurate content that is not misleading; until a more viable solution can be reached. What do you think about fake news? What may be the solution to actually curb the spread news or is this one of those things that can never really be dealt with? Let’s get talking in the comments