Dr M: False and fake news spread faster than truth


Social media platforms should work with governments to overcome technical challenges, generate positive changes and prevent abuses, propagating hate speeches and the spread of false information.

Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said while the Internet and social media platforms have played a huge role in enabling Malaysians to stay connected, they have grown increasingly easy to be abused by irresponsible users.

“In enforcing our laws to protect the public, all stakeholders need to work together to overcome technical challenges, as well as address the need for greater information sharing towards the disclosure or discovery of information to facilitate law enforcement agencies to carry out their duties effectively,” he said at the opening of the expanded Facebook Malaysia’s office in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said Malaysia advocates for a free and open Internet, but such platforms are still under the ambit of the law.

“According to the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, false news spread significantly farther, deeper and faster than the truth in all categories.

“The effects were most pronounced for false political news than terrorism, natural disasters, financial information and urban legend,” he said Dr Mahathir said about 70% of false news were most likely to be retweeted than the truth.

“The rule of thumb is simple — what is illegal offline is almost always illegal online. Freedom of speech is not a licence to abuse, it is a responsibility.

“Freedom of speech without any concern for good human behaviour would be a disaster for any society,” Dr Mahathir said.

The PM said people tend to feel more freedom when it comes to social manners and etiquettes, and this can lead to a rise in expression, ideas and even worse, cyber crimes.

He said another strong area for cooperation between both parties, especially Facebook, would be in the Community Standards Enforcement Reports.

“While there is some form of recognition of hate speech, there are other forms of speech that may potentially be a threat to a nation’s harmony and national security.

“The diversity in culture and tradition translates to very different consequences and implications in speech and postings,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said if these forms of hate speech are not flagged and taken down quickly enough, they can be very harmful depending on what is being said and in the context of a particular country.

However, he acknowledged that social media providers across the globe have done their best to find automated ways to search and filter inappropriate posts using user generated content (UGC) relating to child pornography, terrorism and hate speech.

“The challenge now is to address the diverse spectrums and other UGC contents relating to religious sensitivity, political speech, sedition and even human rights issues, to name a few.

“I am aware that Facebook and a few other social media providers are already working with the Asean Telecommunication Regulators’ Council on this and I urge all of you to continue your cooperation in expanding the current list of areas for immediate take down,” Dr Mahathir said.

Meanwhile, Facebook Malaysia opened its newly expanded office space and announced strategies to support business growth and community building in the country.

Facebook Malaysia country director Nicole Tan said Malaysia has been an important country to Facebook and has contributed to growth in Asia Pacific, where more than 23 million people use the platform every month.

Tan said it is exciting to be a part of spurring the country’s growth in digital transformation and technological innovation.