KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang asked if major social media and tech companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing anything to fight the spread of fake news in Malaysia.
Noting that the companies are required to submit monthly progress reports on fighting fake news in the European Union, the Iskandar Puteri MP also asked if the issue would be addressed here, particularly when it comes to disinformation which could distort the outcome of next month’s Tanjong Piai by-election.
“With the Tanjong Piai by-election set to be the WhatsApp by-election, all players in the by-election, whether the candidates, the political parties or coalitions, the Election Commission, the tech companies and the voters would have to consider their role in the new digital battlefield,” he said in a statement.
Lim predicted the by-election will become the country’s “WhatsApp by-election”, adding the “exponential” increase in lies, fake news and hate speech in the past few days will be nothing compared to what will take place in the two weeks during the campaigning period from November 3 to November 16.
He cited a supposed Pakatan Harapan poster currently circulation on WhatsApp, which urged voters to vote for a Malay-Muslim candidate, referring to Parti Pribumi Bersatu’s Karmaine Sardini.
“This is clearly to spook and antagonise the 42 per cent of Chinese voters and one per cent of Indian voters, as the Barisan Nasional candidate will be MCA’s Wee Jeck Seng,” Lim said.
He also cited a news report today on another WhatsApp message shared among Tanjong Piai voters, which claimed the Budget 2020 has funds for men who want to marry more than one wife, leaving voters ‘hopping mad’.
“It is one of the main reasons that 48 per cent of Tg Piai voters want to reject Pakatan
Harapan in the by-election, a survey by think-tank Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE) shows.
“The spread of fake news is one of the top three factors that will determine whether
PH can hold on to the seat in the November 16 by-election, IDE said,” Lim said.
So as to counter the spread of such disinformation, he suggested for the tech companies to set up a joint fact-checking centre to verify whether anything shared on social media is fake news or factual.
“It will not be an election battle which operates on daily cycle of the print media, not even an hourly cycle, but much faster and more telescoped in time based on the rapidity of production of each fake news and the ability to counter and expose the fake news.
“Pakatan will also need a centre to instantaneously expose the fake news in the digital world. Can the voters of Tanjong Piai end up being the most media literate in the country, or will they fall prey to lies, fake news and hate speech? Can media literacy be developed in time before the by-election?” Lim asked.