Constant reminders needed to curb fake news


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 13 Feb 2020

PETALING JAYA: The public should be reminded regularly on the consequences of creating and spreading fake news, says a psychologist.

Dr Grace Yap, who is based in a private hospital here, said that those who create and share fake news without thinking or verifying it did it because it was easy and it cost them nothing to do so.

“The public should be informed frequently of the consequences of creating and spreading fake news,” she said in an email interview.

Yap said that fake news spreads faster and wider than real news because it “sells.” It is usually constructed with the goal of it going viral on the Internet and requires no responsibility.

Most people who spread fake news do not disclose their personal identity and do not seem to worry about the damage their actions could potentially cause, she said.

While it could also stem from them trying to make sense of their environment and creating stories that make them feel safer, commonly identifiable motives for creating and spreading fake news include the need to feel a sense of control, attention-seeking and showing influence, the “better be safe than sorry mentality,” as well as for monetary and business gains and fame.

She said people tend to trust their social contacts and may be manipulated into sharing the news that they receive.

“Individuals also do not question the credibility of information unless it goes against their own beliefs,” she said.

Fake news tends to be popular and usually triggers certain emotions in oneself that increases the tendency for people to attend to it, said Yap.

“In certain situations, fact checking makes things worse as they may find information that further confirms the news as they already have a bias towards it,” she said.

Yap said that preventive measures to deter people from spreading fake news that could be implemented include putting a technological barrier after reading and before forwarding information.

For example, an alert such as, “Are you sure you want to forward this message?” should pop up to prompt users to think twice before forwarding the message, she said.

Yap also said that public education is important.

“Despite the relevant authority verifying information diligently on official website (sebenarnya.my by MCMC), the culture of fact-checking should be given more emphasis,” she said.

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