PETALING JAYA: The state of emergency, which is scheduled to end on Aug 1, has seen a tremendous decrease in fake news trends in the country, says Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (pic).Sharing information from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), he said the average number of cases concerning the spread of fake news had dropped to seven cases a month since the Emergency Ordinance was enacted, compared to a monthly average of 24 cases previously.
He said a total of 465 fake news related to Covid-19 had been debunked by the authorities since the start of the pandemic in March last year.
He said the Emergency Ordinance enforced during the Emergency period until Aug 1 was to prevent and impose action against the spread of fake news related to Covid-19, which could potentially jeopardise the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.
“The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 has had a significant impact on the country besides successfully reducing the spread of fake news on social media platforms,” he said during a virtual press conference yesterday.
The ordinance was introduced to deal with fake news related to the pandemic, which provides for a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both, while a fine not exceeding RM1,000 will be imposed for each day the offence continues after conviction.
Asked whether the government would increase the amount of fines and punishments, Saifuddin said it was sufficient as a deterrent.
“We (the government) are trying to educate the people through various campaigns, but legal action will still be taken against those found guilty.
“We do not intend to punish people with excessive punishment,” he said.
Also at the virtual press conference were Criminal Investigations Department deputy director (intelligence/operations) DCP Datuk Dev Kumar MM Sree and Communications and Multimedia Commission chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek.
DCP Kumar said that among the main challenges the police faced in combating the spread of fake news was content spread through fake social media accounts.
“The owners of these fake accounts act very quickly. They will delete the content before it is detected by the police,” he added.
Separately, Saifuddin said the ministry was also paying serious attention to viral fake news concerning matters involving the royal institution, race and religion.
He said these three issues were very sensitive and could trigger unwanted incidents.
Saifuddin noted that the police had investigated a total of 743 cases related to royalty and matters on race and religion from 2015 till June 2021.
Of the 743 cases, he said 80 had been prosecuted in court.
“This shows how serious the government is in dealing with issues that can be detrimental to the country,” he said.
Saifuddin also advised the public to be more careful in sharing information that they obtained, noting that they should first ensure the authenticity of the information.