KUALA LUMPUR: With predators targeting children on social media and probable fake news in the lead-up to a possible general election this year, plans are in the offing to increase media literacy education for adults.
After years of education programmes focused on teaching children how to use the Internet safely, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) found that the younger demographic was not the weakest link in the country’s cyber safety chain.
“The next phase for us is to focus on the adults. A lot of online abuses come from them; false news, gambling, revenge porn.
“These are adult activities, not by children,” MCMC network security and enforcement chief officer Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin (pic) said in an interview.
The problem, he said, was that adults and parents of young Internet users were mostly oblivious to the risks of their behaviour. Many of them also allowed children to use social media unsupervised.
Last year, MCMC partnered with Malaysia’s biggest telcos for a Parental Control Tool, which enabled parents to limit their children’s access to certain sites or use certain search terms.
However, only 113,000 or 16% of Malaysian parents took up the service due to poor awareness, he said.
This comes following high-profile cases involving paedophiles grooming and sexually assaulting teenagers they met on social media.
MCMC said it was almost impossible to regulate social media apps such as WhatsApp, BeeTalk or WeChat.
Parents, he said, must take an interest in who their children are interacting with.
“You can’t expect MCMC to monitor your child. There is something wrong if you do, and you won’t be happy either because then we will be accused of invading people’s privacy.
“The only thing we can do is create awareness.
“We have inter-agency cooperation with the United Nations, police and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
“But if the parents don’t participate, there’s not much else we can do,” he said.
Last year, MCMC blocked 1,203 websites, most of which contained pornographic material.
It also blocked 1,129 phishing websites and 321 online gambling sites.
Acknowledging that MCMC had used its capabilities to block websites or haul up users for political offences, Zulkarnain said its efforts were meant for “public interest” and that accusations about it being a biased media regulator were unfounded.
With less than 17 months to go before a mandatory general election has to take place, he expects the deluge of false news to be as widespread as it was during GE13.
Asked how MCMC plans to regulate false news, Zulkarnain pointed back to the agency’s education campaign.
“We want to advocate positive use in people, to be responsible on social media.
“What is important is that people play their role as the first line to negate false news.
“If you get false news or something you don’t know is real or not, keep it first, verify it and then only decide whether you want to share.
“We want people to participate in cleaning up the conversation,” he said.
The 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report revealed that 69% of Malaysians get their news from social media. Malaysia is the second biggest social media news consumer in Asia Pacific behind Hong Kong.
Through its Klik Dengan Bijak campaign, MCMC held media literacy classes for 900,000 people in 2016 at 700 1Malaysia Internet Centres, showing them examples of fake stories about MH370, celebrities and the US presidential election.
Its advocacy and outreach unit reported that most Malaysians in the class were unable to tell the difference between fake and real news.