Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said as Malaysia is facing an unprecedented problem in COVID-19 and the frontliners are doing their best to overcome the crisis, fake news and disinformation have become another unprecedented issue.
"This is a sad thing…we are all together in this fight against the pandemic…but, unfortunately, there are those who share fake news. To date, I believe the police have taken some action. MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) has charged six people.
"Every day, we have to form and prepare (answers from) the rapid response team (that would answer any queries regarding COVID-19, as a countermeasure to fake news). Every day we have eight to nine issues to clarify…(about) 120 issues to date," he said.
Saifuddin said this when interviewed on Bernama TV's The Nation programme via Skype today, where he shared his views on the impact and role of communications during COVID-19.
Saifuddin said this war to counter fake news is far from over and the public need to be educated every single day using all sorts of platforms, including social media and mainstream media.
"Well, not that easy (to educate)…but there are a couple of things. We need to continuously educate people that we must apply our intelligence in looking at all kinds of news and stories, reports that are now being shared via social media.
"People are so happy to forward and share whatever they are receiving. Our plea to the rakyat is, look at the information that you are receiving, put some thought into it and see whether it is very truthful or not. We have 'sebenarnya.my' portal to look and check this information.
"One of the things I keep repeating, before you forward anything, think of Health director-general (Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah), a battalion of doctors, nurses and health workers who are really struggling to overcome this pandemic. Are you really helping by sharing and forwarding (fake news)?" he said.
According to Saifuddin, apart from the war against fake news, the ministry in collaboration with other ministries is constantly explaining current issues, for example on why university students on campus are not allowed to go back and the closure of Bazar Ramadan.
Saifuddin drove home the point that it was important to address these issues to avoid disinformation of what the government is doing in this battle against COVID-19.
When asked about the role of big technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media, as well as telecommunications companies to assist the government in battling this pandemic, he said a number of postings have been taken down and a lot of messages were sent on a daily basis to the rakyat.
"We want everyone to be safe. We can do this together by spreading love, and not fear mongering; this is the way forward. We have to learn the new normal," he said.
Talking about the action on misinformation, Saifuddin said it was something that should not be compromised especially in times when the nation is at war against the deadly pandemic.
"We have to strike a balance. On the one hand, we must be strong believers. We must embrace all the good virtues, values of freedom, democracy, and the right to information, But at the same time, the irony is we still have to take action on misinformation," he added.