Lucy Sebli

We can’t have, like, willy-nilly proliferation of fake news. That’s crazy. You can’t have more types of fake news than real news. That’s allowing public deception to go unchecked. That’s crazy.

Elon Musk, South African technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer

Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) made fresh headlines recently when its party president was alleged to have called his Dayak constituents of having no brain.

The party immediately denied making such malicious statements and labelled the headlines as fake news. 

The headlines, ‘Wong Soon Koh: Dayaks are stupid with low IQ and easy to be manipulated’, which was allegedly published by an online news portal, Free Malaysia Today (FMT) on July 13 has caused quite a stir among party members.

It was believed that the original headlines of the piece were, ‘PSB backs Wong Soon Koh on whether to quit Sarawak Cabinet’, previously published by the same online news portal on July 13.

The representatives of the news portal also denied ever printing a report with such a heading. Wong also claimed that the fake news was the work of some quarters within Sarawak politics whose intention is to damage his political image.

He further asserted that the malicious attack by some parties can be attributed to PSB’s fast growth and popularity among the Dayaks. He hinted that PSB continued popularity has made the party’s political nemesis wary.

Nonetheless, PSB is not alone. There are so many others out there who are also victims of fake news.

Fake news has been around for quite sometimes now. The victims vary from ordinary folk to popular artists and high public figures (politicians). The main objective of fake news is to tarnish, disgrace, humiliate or to smudge an individual or organisation’s reputation or image. 

In a highly digital world, it is rather complicated and difficult to identify what is fake and what is real. One has to be very diligent by cross-checking the information shared in the public domain. 

So, what is fake news? 

Fake news is a form of news comprining deliberate disinformation spread via traditional news media or online social media. It is argued that digital media is responsible for reviving and incresing the usage of fake news. 

Fake news is also known as yellow journalism, an American term for journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news. Instead, it uses journalism techniques which may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism and eye-catching headlines to increase sales.

The topic of fake news is as old as the news industry itself; misinformation, hoaxes, propaganda, and satire have long been in existence.

There are so many forms of fake news; deliberate misinformation or untrue news. This form of fake news is written for profit andthen shared on social media among targeted groups of people who want to believe that it is true. The intention is for the fake news to spread without readers taking the time to properly verify it. 

Another form of fake news is false headlinesHere, a news headline may read one way or state something as fact, but then the body of the article says something different or vice versa.  

This type of misleading fake news is called “click-bait”, which aims to catch a reader’s attention to make them click on the fake news. This type of fake news is misleading at best and untrue at worst.

Another form of fake news is social media sharing.These sites often rely on shares, likes, or followers who then turn news items into a popularity contest.

The problem with this form of fake news is that it hinges on social media’s ability to show a large number of news items in a short time. This might put the users at a disadvantage, where the readers lack the time to research and verify each news. 

Another form is news satire. It often begins with an aspect of truth then purposefully twists it to comment on society. News satire has the potential to be spread as though it is real news by those who do not understand its humorous nature. 

How can we differentiate fake news from the real ones? 

Well, the way to figuring out if something is a piece of fake news is by looking at the individual who created it or organisations behind it especially when one assessing online news. 

Secondly, by looking at the message itself and understanding what is being communicated. This can be done by checking if the website of which the news appears on is updated regularly, and examine the date when the story was first published.  

Thirdly, we can look at the objective as to why the message was created. It is always important to verify the information before you share it with others — in person or on social media.

Aside from the methods above, an additional method that works is the (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose) or CRAAP test, which look at the content for its currency (the timeliness of the information — whether the news is updated); relevance — by looking at the importance of the information to your needs; authority (where does the source of the information comes from); accuracy (determine the reliability and truthfulness of the information); and purpose, (examining the reason the information exists).

My advice is, before you share, take time to verify the accuracy of your information. 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.