LETTER | It's time for our government to consider having a specific law to address the issue concerning fake news. Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for a law to combat fake news in his country.
He said that social media would face tougher rules over the content that they put online. Deliberate attempts were being made to blur the lines between truth and lies and to undermine the people's faith in liberal democracy, he further added.
What is fake news? Basically, fake news can be considered as a type of yellow journalism or a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines in order to sell their newspapers and to gain popularity from the general public.
Fake news is totally different from real news whereby a real news outlet though it might make mistakes, it doesn't distribute false information on purpose.
Most important to remember is that reporters and editors who report real news have their own code of ethics that includes using reputable sources, checking their facts and getting comments from people on both sides of an issue before publishing the news.
Fake news can be published through the old traditional ways like through printing newspapers, through broadcast media or spread online like on social media.
There can many reasons or motives for creating fake news like having a real intention to mislead the general public, causing damage to certain agencies or individuals, to obtain political or financial gain, to get popular and others.
How to identify fake news? Often fake news come with sensationalist, exaggerated or patently false headlines in order to grab attention from the public at large.
The effects of fake news can be hazardous to everybody as it can create unrest, tensions and fighting among people or groups of people.
In a multi-racial country like Malaysia, the spread of fake news without control can easily disturb the harmonious condition in our society which we have enjoyed for the last many years after gaining independence.
With the rise of social media, fake news can no longer be seen as a minor issue or which only affects certain countries. Malaysia must be fully prepared to deal with such an issue before it starts to spread wildly beyond our control.
Though we already have several laws to deal with it like the Penal Code [Act 574], the Defamation Act [Act 286], the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 [Act 588], and other possible actions under civil law, having a specific law to deal with fake news will make it more clear for everybody to understand and follow.
Having a specific law will also allow for a special enforcement agency to be formed to monitor the problem effectively and efficiently.
Having a specific law on such a issue will also ensure everybody takes the issue more seriously and encourage them take immediate steps to prevent and report any existence of any news which they strongly believe to be fake.
Having such specific law will also in the long-term encourage the public to respect real news over fake news and to be cautious when spreading any news which they receive.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.