Given the amount of fake news going around – with a surge expected as the general election nears – it is becoming a burden to separate the ‘bull’ from the bulletins. Political parties have kicked their communication arms into high gear to counter the flood while the Government is mulling new laws to combat this potential threat to national security. Those who think nothing of sharing fake news should consider the unfortunate citizen who was harassed and labelled a phantom voter in the previous polls. He suffered distress for weeks afterwards – all because of one irresponsible post.
KLANG: Two minutes after voting in GE13, Chua Lai Fatt’s nightmare began.
“After I cast my ballot, my phone started ringing with friends asking me about a Facebook post,” said the 35-year-old reflexologist.
The post went viral and Chua became a household name, making the headlines of newspapers and television.
The Klang native was a victim of fake news.
During the 13th General Election in 2013, he was queuing at a polling station in Sungai Pinang here when a man from an opposition-linked group reprimanded him, alleging that he was a foreign worker, and demanded that he sign a letter confessing that he is not a Malaysian citizen.
Chua, who was born to a Chinese father and an Indian mother, said he had been mistaken for a Malaysian Indian due to his dark complexion before but it was his first time being labelled a foreign worker.
“I spoke to the group in fluent Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien, but they insisted that I was a foreigner,” said Chua, who went to a Chinese-medium primary school.
While Chua tried to prove his nationality, one man discreetly posted an uncensored photo of his identity card on social media and accused him of being a phantom voter.
The commotion ended and Chua was eventually allowed to vote, but his nightmare had just started.
“Every day for about a month, everything on Facebook was about me ... I had the fame of a celebrity but not the fortune,” he laughed.
Chua can now joke about the incident but said the initial weeks of his unwanted fame were distressing.
“Everywhere I went, people on the streets stopped and asked whether I was that guy on Facebook. I felt guilty and victimised. Why did this happen when all I was doing was exercising my right to vote?” he said.
He said some people had even misused the information on his identity card as it had become public information after it went viral.
An unknown person used his IC to apply for an Internet line in Penang and he ended up with a RM3,700 bill.
One of the opposition politicians who accused Chua of being a foreigner was Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming.
When Ong, a DAP election strategist, realised his mistake, he met Chua and his family to apologise for the misunderstanding.
Close to five years after the incident, Chua said he still gets the occasional stranger asking if he was the phantom voter who went viral on Facebook. He has now moved on from the incident but the fear of being the target of fake news still haunts him.
Chua has a to-vote-or-not-to-vote dilemma with the coming GE14.
“I don’t know whether I should vote. My friends say I should vote but I do not know what will happen if I vote and whether I would be targeted again.”