Of fake news, peddlers and gobblers

Fake news is a big thing in the field of social media journalism. Fake news can be as simple as spreading misinformation or as dangerous as smearing hateful propaganda.

—  Fabrizio Moreira, Ecuadorian politician

The year is 2021, the internet has been in existence for a total of 38 years and Malaysians have been enjoying it for 26 years since 1995.

You would think that all these 26 years, with the influx of information widely available, to coin an overused phrase, at our fingertips, we would know better, but apparently we don’t.

Recently, there was also a protest at Sungai Plan in Bintulu, after a Facebook post purportedly claimed that the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) in the village would be extended for another two weeks.

Just this week, another rumour circulated over the missing Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccines which a section of the public bought.

The question now is why would a section of the public believe a person on the internet rather than the mass media and the government official channels!

This also includes people I know — you know the type, who’d believe everything they see and read from their WhatsApp groups and Facebook page.

“If I suspect, and am convinced that the claims made by an unknown individual on the internet is true, then it must be true,” they would say.

No. It is not. It never is.

Then they would say something that is illustrated better in Malay: Kalau tidak ada angin, masakan pokok bergoyang which roughly translates to (at least to them) that there could be an inkling of truth in everything.

You see, this is the problem. We’d rather believe something that is untrue, despite being told repeatedly, by everyone, that the thing in fact is not true.

I mean, they have all the capabilities and access in the world to double check and verify whether what was said is true or otherwise. Why not Google it to be absolutely sure?

Or is it just a major inconvenience that gets ahead of your desire to be a conspiracy nut?

In the first worldwide pandemic occurring in the digital age, there is bound to be conspiracy theorists saying what’s what.

With the Covid-19 vaccines, some would claim that the jab incorporates a brain-controlling microchip where all of us will be at the mercy of an evil, foreign, and invisible force.

Lately, there were also claims that individuals being administered the Covid-19 vaccine jab would suddenly have the ability to get magnets stuck to their arm, apparently supporting the aforementioned microchip theory.

You might laugh at how preposterous all of this sounds, but in all honesty, it is no different than you believing the things you see and read in your WhatsApp group. It is the same principle.

It is because of these people, who think they know what’s what, that journalists now are being sent on a wild goose chase to fact check these incredulous claims.

It takes very little effort to create trouble for everyone and take away precious time that should have been invested elsewhere.

So the advice to the public is to just stop; stop disseminating fake news — whatever your suspicions and baseless intuitions, keep it to yourselves. Leave the talking to the experts.

It may be true or it may be not. But sure as heck, it saves everyone a great deal of trouble chasing down whatever whims you have.

To the public, the target consumers of these fake news peddlers — you should know better.
If a purported statement by a government official is suspiciously horribly written, filled with spelling and grammatical errors, devoid of facts and figures, nine times out of ten, it is fake.

If the claims made are nothing short of astonishing and sounds made up — it probably is. It is best that we ignore them.

Don’t be a sheep. Don’t blindly trust information of suspicious origins just because your gut says it could be true.

Twenty-six years after the advent of the internet age in Malaysia, we should know better. While it is easy to come across fake news, it is equally easy to get verified and accurate information from the right sources.

The mass media, coupled with official government information channels, have strived to deliver accurate information to the people with certified journalists putting in the work day in and day out.

We don’t want the community to still be akin to a frog under a coconut shell or katak di bawah tempurung (someone who doesn’t know what’s happening around him) as the Malay proverb would have it. We won’t like to be called that, so it is time that we get our act together.