Increasing media literacy is crucial in battling fake news

THE COVID-19 pandemic has opened the floodgates to a deluge of misinformation, inaccurate reporting and fake news in Malaysia.

Since the first movement control order (MCO) in March 2020, we have seen an almost-daily avalanche of information on the virus, potential cures, and endless speculations especially now that the first phase of vaccines have already been rolled out.

But while the existence of fake news is nothing new, latest information communication technologies have enabled unprecedented escalation of the production and circulation of false content via the internet.

Of course, social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, too, have a role to play in accelerating the consumption of false content.

While the authorities, alongside the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), have stepped up their efforts to curb the spread of fake news, those responsible for spreading fake news remain undeterred.

No amount of threats nor government campaigns with catchy slogans have succeeded in eradicating the ‘infodemic’ and one has to wonder why.

One obvious root of the problem is the lack of media literacy, or more accurately, the lack of efforts to equip the public with the media literacy skills that are necessary to filter the massive amount of information that can be found on the internet.

Media literacy skills refer to basic practices such as cross referencing sources of information to check its veracity, or reverse image-searching photos to check if they were used anywhere else in a different context altogether.

In this case,’s slogan comes to mind – tidak pasti, jangan kongsi (not sure, don’t share).

But here’s the thing: how many Malaysians know of a certain portal’s existence and actually so their research before they hit the ‘forward’ or ‘share’ tab on social media?

During this time of heightened anxiety, it is only natural for people to want to share information they feel could be beneficial or helpful to others.

Without the right media literacy skills, these are the people who would be left vulnerable of being misled by false information, which might end up having more damaging effects apart from just miscommunication.

While the Government’s crackdown on fake news is a much needed initiative, perhaps it is more important to go back to the root of the problem: the lack of media literacy among

Although this will not immediately eradicate the problem with fake news and misinformation, it is a good place to start. – Mar 5, 2021


Photo credit: Forbes

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