Media & Events

Annuar: Govt taking measures to curb misinformation in social media

08 Jun 2022, New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: With almost 30 million internet users in Malaysia as of January 2022, the digital platform is vulnerable to risks such as the widespread dissemination of fake news which can cause confusion to users.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said this was an important area which the government needed to address in this digital era.

"Like many other countries, we need to find ways to address the rise of misinformation and disinformation. But at the same time, we know that the public must be equipped with accurate and timely information," he said in his official address at World Press Freedom Day Virtual Forum: Journalism Under Digital Siege here today.

His speech was read by Communications and Multimedia Ministry deputy secretary-general (strategic communications and creative industry) Mastura Ahmad Mustafa.

Annuar said based on what they saw as the pandemic spread, so did a new disease of media and communication which is known as infodemic.

"The rapid influx of information containing various forms of false news has caused a state of panic among the general public."

"Therefore, the ministry has undertaken efforts to make communication more efficient in order to lessen the impact of misinformation and disinformation. Firstly, we have what is called a social media collaboration with all ministries."

He stated that the collabaration will be used to encourage the citizens to connect and actively participate with the government due to the fact that social media by definition revolves around interactions and conversations.

"Secondly, in terms of engagements, we are moving away from the traditional tell and sell model to a more participatory and inclusive approach to foster meaningful two-way communication and engagement."

"Thirdly, we are actually minimising the digital divide. The government is committed to ensure that all sectors of the population have equal access to social media. We don't want only a certain group of people to have access to this information through media."

"Fourthly, through the Info On Wheels programme under the Information Department, which is an effort to disseminate factual information to the public about a particular issue by visiting places frequented by people such as villages, night markets, and supermarkets regularly and explaining it to the people face to face."

"Lastly, through the periodic reviews of existing laws. We have these laws under the Penal Code Act 574 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. So, we are doing it continuously to ensure that the provisions of the law continue to remain relevant in the light of current trends," he said.

It was highlighted that the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 under the purview of the ministry, is currently undergoing a review process.

"The ministry has held several consultative engagements with different stakeholders in examining the suitability of the provisions under the act in ensuring the safety of the public in engaging through online platforms while ensuring that it does not stifle the rights of citizens to enjoy their freedom of speech and expression.

The minister also stated that the issuance of The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 is intended to be used only for a specific time and situation to curb the widespread sharing of fake and misleading information regarding Covid-19 or various treatments and vaccine policies that will cause distress towards society.

"It is not to curb freedom of speech. Once this situation has improved and we no longer need the emergency ordinance, the Dewan Negara unanimously approved the motion to revoke the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021," he said.

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