Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu (pic) asked Caretaker communications and multimedia minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa to clarify the definition and scope of fake news adopted by the task force and the processes in place to identify fake news.– Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — Caretaker communications and multimedia minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa must urgently clarify how the task force he set up to monitor fake news on social media during the 15th general election (GE15) will function, said the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).
In a statement this morning, its executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu asked Annuar to clarify the definition and scope of fake news adopted by the task force and the processes in place to identify fake news.
She also raised other concerns, including the safeguards in the event of wrongful removal of content, the level of engagement between the task force and social media companies, and the measures to guarantee the task force will not be misused or be weaponised as a tool for political agendas.
“Any arbitrary and unchecked use of the task force will go against the fundamental norms of freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in our Federal Constitution and international standards, which clearly stipulate that the public has the right to know, seek and receive, as well as to impart ideas and information of all kinds.
“Any restrictions of said rights must be legitimate, necessary and proportionate,” she said.
She added that the task force must remain focused on educating the public and that the government should support credible public service broadcasting for the purpose of Malaysians identifying trusted news sources.
However, the public must also play their part in preventing the dissemination of disinformation, she said.
Although GE15 remains a time when the public exercises the freedom of expression, she noted that disinformation campaigns often escalated during the election period.
“Use of technology and social media allows for wider and cross platform amplification,” she explained.
She also explained the differences between misinformation and disinformation: “Misinformation is generally understood as mistakenly or inadvertently creating and spreading false or inaccurate information without malicious or manipulative intent to deceive.
“Disinformation or ‘fake news’ can be understood as deliberate and systemic attempts with clear intent and design to manipulate and sway peoples’ thinking through propagated, false and dishonest information.”
On Thursday, Annuar announced the formation of the task force, which consisted of more than 100 personnel from the Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
“To wait for reports and to investigate is not really suitable at a time when elections are being held because candidates can be victims (of fake news), and it would be very damaging to them.
“As such, the task force will be allowed to take immediate action,” he said.