They did that by seizing immediate control on the directive and narrative of events
In Malaysia, the politicians and regulators laments the bane of fake news. They blamed it on the tendency of Malaysians to ignore journalism, prefer social media, and falling victim to fraud, fake news.
Since the advent of social media, truth is no longer dictated by the authorities but is networked by peers. For every fact there is a counter fact and both look identical online thus confusing to most people. This makes many vulnerable to accepting and acting on the information received.
Whenever a situation arised, the tendency is to issue 'a warning' to the general public not to speculate on the issue and let the authorities investigate. Under such circumstance, it is obvious that the general public will turn to social network for information. And it is only natural that people tend to seek information that aligns with their views, fake or not.
Social networks have tremendous viral effects and there are always falsehoods circulating online. Should the government is serious in combating fake news, instead of expensing efforts to create awareness amongst the public, efforts should be made to educate and train those in public service and in charge to communicate immediately and effectively. Taken that government departments must go through multiple time-consuming procedures before issuing an official statement, internet users nowadays demanded instant news.
The people is not expecting the government to be the fastest source but they do expect it to be the most accurate and reliable one where messages are delivered in full without being cut by the media to avoid misunderstandings.
Take the recent riots in Jakarta. Within hours of arson and violence taking hold in Jakarta, the Police Chief called for a press conference to announce that dozens of protesters had been arrested and police had established the riots were pre-mediated. Substantial cash and weapons that can cause death were found on the protesters detained. By unravelling details of a complicated high-stakes situation in a short space of time, the Police helped to quell and derail the momentum of fake news from spreading.
3 days thereafter, the police announced the arrest of a man for deliberately spreading information to create hatred with news and photos with the narrative that the police force involved police from a foreign country to handle demonstrations in Indonesia. To make their point, the police presented to the media the police officers, who appeared in the photos where they removed their masks and introduced themselves as true blue Indonesians. The quick communication, again within a short space of time, completely took the 'wind out of the sail' of fake news.
Our politicians and regulators should have the same strategic mindset – immediately issue a quick official response pursuant to any issue or crisis instead of issuing the standard response calling on the public not to speculate on the matter and leave it to the authorities to investigate. Thereafter, follow up on a daily or weekly basis with updates.
For the long term, in the complex digital landscape of today and the future, reforming the education system to emphasize critical thinking appears to be the best bet to prepare Malaysians for the fight against misinformation. Fake news spread in our country currently is done to divide our own people. Hopefully, the new vision for the country – shared prosperity – will result in the people developing a strong national narrative instead of the existing narrative and the fight against fake news are those done by the external perpetrators.