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The spread of false information

The spread of false information

The ease of which the public obtain information is one of the core reason that wrong or misleading information is easily spread today.

Back in the old days, one either has to do lots of reading and made serious enquiries to verify facts, but with the availability of data on the web, all one needs today is to go online. It is up to the individual to assess the information available is true or false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumours) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.

With the spread of smart phones and online news exchange applications like Facebook, text message and WhatsApps, news either false or true, are delivered direct to individuals. These are almost always forwarded to others in their contact list or groups, thus spreading the news virally.

A recent example was the news that one of the Barisan component party has left the coalition, which was subsequently denied by the party leadership.  In a media statement the MCA affirmed that they are not leaving Barisan Nasional and are condemning a fake news article announcing the party’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has been urged to investigate the spread of the slanderous news on social media.

For those familiar with the earlier days of the Cold War, students of history looking into the bi-polar world politics had shown how the Soviet intelligence service planted misleading information of the Free World through legitimate publications and writings done by renowned authors and journalists.

One can see that is all happening again, particularly from within the political milieu – with their groups of cyber troopers doing their best to influence the political thinking of the public.

With the spread of fake news of all sorts, one must have the intellectual maturity to assess what is presented in the social media.  One way to do this is to give serious judgement to the originator of the information as well as make a wise decision on the value of the information itself.

Being well-informed is a much needed quality in this day of information overload, but one must really be choosy in what one reads, and believes in.

4 April 2017

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