It’s stressful enough, let’s not fake it

  • Nation
  • Friday, 27 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: Fake news on Covid-19 is making Malaysians feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed, says psychiatrist Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan.

Staying at home could make people restless and hungry for news, but they could also end up reading more fake news than the genuine article, she said.

“You can’t stop clicking on the next article or new videos because you’re feeling some sort of adrenaline or excitement.

“But you will just end up feeling more anxious if they are fake news (articles), ” said Dr Anasuya, programme director of psychology at Taylor’s University.

She believes the older generation are more inclined to share fake news because they are not aware that some people falsify information for “likes” on social media.

“The older generation comes from a time when news was perceived to be always true.

“But today, we have a culture where people spread fake news on social media because they get some sort of emotional kick from seeing the number of ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’, ” she said.

Counsellor Faith Foo said, “People do not know what to believe any more. When fake news triggers a sense of false alarm, people panic and don’t think logically.

“They end up acting on impulse and choose to look at the problem rather than the solution.

“It is very damaging at a time like this, when there is already an intense feeling of anxiety and stress, ” she said.

Befrienders Kuala Lumpur chairman Justin Victor said those who call are anxious about what is happening, so perhaps they are not properly informed due to fake news being circulated.

“Fake news can add to emotional disturbance and cause unnecessary anxiety, especially during this time.

“Please be more conscientious about sharing information or messages with others, ” he said.

Dr Anasuya agreed: “If it’s not from an official source, then just don’t share it. Please don’t forward voice or text messages because someone claims to have a ‘family member’ working with the authorities.”

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said in a statement that it and the police have recorded statements from five suspects alleged to have spread fake news on Covid-19 via social media.

They were charged under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 for improper use of network facilities.

The regulatory body said it is working with the police’s Cyber Crime Taskforce to deal with misinformation, especially regarding Covid-19, which could cause confusion or panic.

Spreading misinformation is a crime and harsh action will be taken against those who do, said the commission.

It also advised the public to check the website or app to verify any news on Covid-19.

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