Fake news, Facebook and fanning emotions

Opinion  |  Nathaniel Tan
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Not so long ago, food trucks were a craze here in Kuala Lumpur. I enjoyed their novelty as much as the next guy.

But at some point, it occurred to me… these aren’t new. We’ve had food trucks here almost as long as we’ve had trucks - lok lok, sugar cane, rojak and/or cendol, to name but a few.

Fake news is a little bit like that. It’s entered out lexicon in a way that suggests it was invented when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

The truth is, that stuff goes back way further.

One 28-year-old example of fake news comes from when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was accused by Umno of having Christian leanings, simply because a young woman in Sabah put traditional Kadazan headgear on his head that apparently had a cross somewhere in its design.

Some say it cost him the 1990 general election.

Existing laws sufficient

One criticism of these new fake news bills, both here and in Singapore, is that there already exist plenty of laws to deal with the spreading of misinformation or lies.

This is entirely true. There is no way a country like Singapore would not already have plenty of ways to slap you six ways to Sunday for publishing something even remotely untrue.

The manner in which all these countries are now jumping on the fake news bandwagon and enacting unnecessary new legislation suggests that this action is not borne out of any genuine commitment to truth and responsible journalism, but merely a “fashionable” excuse to ramp up repression.

In Malaysia at least, the new laws are horribly worded and give an insane amount of power to the state to literally define what is true and what is not...

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