PETALING JAYA: While Malaysians say they are concerned about the spread of fake news, many prefer to get their information via social media rather than genuine news sites, Bernama reported.
And this makes them increasingly vulnerable to fraud and fake news, according to CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM).
Its chief executive officer Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab said fraudulent activities on the Internet include 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 get money,” he told Bernama.
The nature of the Internet that is capable of disseminating information at high speeds and allowing people to use a made-up identity are among the reasons why it is easy to commit fraud and disseminate fake news.
Another factor is the users' media-literacy.
Amirudin said the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 report revealed that 73% of Internet users in Malaysia were concerned about the negative impact of fake news, but at the same time, 45% of users chose to disengage from mainstream news channels for their source of news.
They choose to refer to sources shared on social sites, which raises the risk for them to be exposed easily to fake news, the national news agency reported.
“To make it worse, 63% of Malaysians could not distinguish between rumours and good journalism,” Amirudin was quoted as saying.
Given that Malaysians are unable to distinguish between true and fake news, they usually simply accept the news without checking its validity, Bernama reported.
A study by a Paris-based international organisation, Ipsos, revealed that 50% of Malaysians admit they have discovered stories to be fake after they believed them to be true.
“Every fake news (piece) has a big impact on the perception and the reputation of those involved in the news.
“Worse still, when race, religion and other sensitive issues are misused because it not only affects individuals but also threatens the sovereignty of the nation,” Amirudin said.
While true facts can be published to debunk fake news, the damage from such negative perceptions cannot be easily deleted in a short time, he added.
Subsequently, the authorities are left with all sort of challenges relating to information dissemination platforms including social sites, where users can create false identities to create fake accounts and spread false news.
The use of short-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Line and WeChat also contributes to the dissemination of fake news, Bernama reported.
Users simply forward messages, and the number of those who receive such fake news multiplies very quickly, the national news agency said.
Even though some service providers have tightened the ability to forward messages, with the cumulative number of users exceeding 1.5 billion worldwide, moves to block fake news are easier said than done.
In terms of enforcement, the government has empowered agencies such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to monitor and investigate any activities involving Internet misuse through provisions in Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA).
However, Amirudin believes that the most effective weapon against fake news is public awareness among Internet users on the risk of spreading fake news.
The #myviralvow campaign, a CSM initiative, has been running since 2017 to educate Malaysians.
“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.
Meanwhile, CSM said that fraud, including fake news, continues to haunt Malaysians with more people being affected since 2016.
Through its official complaints centre Cyber999, it has divided reports on cybercrime into nine categories: content-related, cyber-harassment, denial of service, fraud, intrusion, intrusion attempts, malicious code, spam, and vulnerabilities.
Out of 2,977 reported incidents from January to April this year, cyberfraud 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 attempts (34), vulnerabilities (21), and denial of service (five).
Compared with last year, throughout 2018, the most number of reports received were cyber fraud with 5,123 cases followed by intrusion attempts (1,805) and malicious code (1,700).
Meanwhile, MCMC statistics showed that up to December 2018, Malaysia had 28.7 million Internet users, which accounted for 87.4% of the country's population.
That was an increase of 4.2 million users compared with 24.5 million users recorded in 2016.
On a daily basis, a total of 39.2% users spend between one and four hours surfing the Internet, 23.9% surf it between five and eight hours, 13.4% use it between nine and 12 hours, while 8.1% users surf for over 18 hours.
Data from the MCMC shows that 88.6% of homes have Internet connections.
In addition, there is all sorts of available Internet access for Malaysians such as on-the-go service (68.1%), workplace (56.4%), and commercial centres (26%).
Other sources include free WiFi (36.3%), using neighbour's Internet access (38.7%), community centres (18.2%), and education centres (12%).
The main devices used are smartphones (93.1%), laptops (44.2%), and desktop computers (28.1%) followed by tablets (20.4%).
CSM’s Amirudin also encouraged anyone who felt that they had fallen victim to Internet misuse to lodge a report with CSM through Cyber999.
Reports may also be made by phone at 1-300-88-2999, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.