Tuesday, September 24

Fake news keeps haunting Malaysians

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Malaysia had 28.7 million Internet users, which accounts for 87.4 per cent of the country’s population. File Photo

CYBERJAYA: Fraud through the Internet including fake news continues to haunt Malaysians as more and more people having been falling into the trap of cybercrime since 2016.

CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) through its official complaints centre Cyber999 has divided the reports on cybercrime into nine categories, namely content-related, cyber harassment, denial of service, fraud, intrusion, intrusion attempt, malicious code, spam and vulnerabilities.

Out of 2,977 reported incidents from January to April this year, cyber fraud recorded the highest number of incidents with 1,963 cases followed by malicious code (390), intrusion (339), content-related (100), cyber harassment (88), spam (37), intrusion attempt (34), vulnerabilities  (21) and denial of service (five). Compared to last year, throughout 2018, the highest reports received was cyber fraud with 5,123 cases followed by intrusion attempt (1,805) and malicious code (1,700).

In the meantime, statistics from Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) showed that up to December 2018, Malaysia had 28.7 million Internet users, which accounted for 87.4 per cent of the country’s population.

That was an increase of 4.2 million users in comparison with 24.5 million users recorded in 2016.

On daily basis, a total of 39.2 per cent users spend between one to four hours surfing the Internet, 23.9 per cent surf it between five and eight hours, 13.4 per cent use it nine to 12 hours while 8.1 per cent users surf the Internet over 18 hours.

Fake news

CSM chief executive officer Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab said among Internet fraudulent activities were the dissemination of fake news, impersonation and offering non-existent services.

“News, reports, audio and video recordings that are either completely or partially false have been disseminated, sensationalised by certain parties to ‘discredit’ certain individual or organisations. Sometimes to gain money,” he told Bernama.

The nature of the Internet that is capable of disseminating information at high speed and allows users to use the service with a made-up identity is among the reasons how fraud and fake news dissemination can be done easily. While users’ attitude who are ignorant of the transparency of the information received makes the matter worse.

Amirudin also said the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 report revealed that 73 per cent of Internet users in Malaysia were concerned about the negative impact of fake news, but at the same time, 45 per cent of the Internet users chose to disengage from the main news channels for their news source.

“To make it worse, 63 per cent of Malaysians could not distinguish between rumours and good journalism,” he explained.

Given that the netizens are unable to distinguish between true and fake news, they usually simply accept the news without checking their validity.

Meanwhile, a study by an international organisation, IPSOS, based in Paris revealed that 50 per cent of Malaysians admit they have discovered stories to be fake after they believed them to be true.

“Every fake news has a big impact on the perception and the reputation of those involved in the news. Worse still, when issues on racism, religion and other sensitive issues are misused because it not only affects individuals but also threatens the sovereignty of the nation,” Amirudin said.

While facts can be published to deny the fake news but the damage from the negative perception could not be easily deleted in a short time frame, he added.

Easy access

Data from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)  shows that 88.6% of homes have Internet connections.

In addition, there is all sort of sources for Internet access for Malaysians such as on-the-go service (68.1%), workplace (56.4 per cent) and commercial centres (26 per cent). Other sources include free Wi-Fi (36.3 per cent), using neighbour’s Internet access (38.7 per cent), community centres (18.2 per cent) and education centres (12 per cent).

Main gadgets used are smartphones (93.1 per cent), laptops (44.2 per cent) and desktop computers (28.1 per cent) followed by tablets (20.4 per cent).

Subsequently, the authorities are left with all sort of challenges relating to information dissemination platforms including in social sites where users can create false identities to create fake accounts and spread false news. The use of short-messaging sites such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Line and WeChat also contribute to the dissemination of fake news.

The users just simply forward the received messages and the number of receivers of the fake news multiplies very quickly.

Even though some service providers have tightened the condition to forward messages but with the cumulative number of users exceeding 1.5 billion worldwide, moves to block the dissemination of fake news are easier said than done.

#Myviralvow

In terms of enforcement, the government set up agencies such as MCMC to monitor and investigate any activities involving Internet misuse through the provision of Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

However, Amirudin believes that the most effective weapon against fake news on the Internet is public awareness among Internet users on the risk of spreading fake news. The #myviralvow campaign, an initiative by CSM has been running since 2017 to educate netizens to be more aware of the use of the Internet.

“The best way would be to provide education and awareness to Internet users when they are in the cyberspace. As you receive any information, be sure to check whether the news is valid or fake.

“And if it is valid, is it kind? And if it is kind, is it necessary to forward it? Or simply just let the circulation end with you,” he added. Amirudin also encouraged anyone who felt that they had fallen victim to Internet misuse to lodge a report to CSM through Cyber999.

Reports may also be made by phone at 1-300-88-2999, through email at [email protected], SMS to 15888 or by downloading Cyber999 smart app available on App Store and Google Play.

Complaints can also be lodged at  CSM’s headquarters at Menara Cyber Axis, Jalan Impact, Cyberjaya. — Bernama