I really don’t know what’s all this hooha about introducing a law to check this so-called fake news. Fake news isn’t anything new. It’s just a new term for blatant online lying.
Human beings have been lying since time immemorial and it’s nothing new. What, perhaps, is new is not creating a story out of nothing but posting it online as news. Previously, creating a story out of nothing — lying — was simply transmitted through the grapevine. Also known as gossiping!
Women were — still are — experts at it! Now, men have joined in and made it more masculine and glamorous by writing it in the form of news and posting it online!
The point is lying is a human condition. And no amount of regulation is going to stop people from doing what we do quite naturally! That is not to say that lying is all right. It isn’t and we shouldn’t be doing it.
As it is human to lie, it is also human to learn not to lie. And we should make an effort in that direction. But, rules won’t stop people from lying. As history has shown, we just find another way to do it!
Those in authority who favour rules to control human behavior don’t seem to realize that that is not their job. Oftentimes when they want to control other people’s behavior it is always to protect themselves from arrows shot at them. They use their powers to control the shooters, which is using their powers for self-serving purposes.
But, will a law to criminalize fake news protect them? I doubt it. People will just find another way to shoot the arrows!
Those in authority also need to understand that with every human liberty comes the potential for abuse. Whether it is political, social, economic or religious freedom, someone somewhere will abuse it. Just because there’ll be abuse does not mean the the liberty should be constrained.
We already have laws to manage such abuse. But, freedom of information is one human right that should not be curtailed just because some people abuse it.
In the Malaysian context, where information is colored by the perspective of media owners, the digital media offers a much-needed alternative to access other perspectives to understand what’s really going on. A law to stop fake news may inadvertently shut down alternative news and that is bad news because news will become restrictive and the people will always be left in the dark.
To keep people in the know some fake news need to be accepted as the price for freedom of information.
Instead of restricting information flow, people should be taught to recognize fake news. When the news has no source, and is quite preposterous in nature, it’s better to take it with a pinch of salt.
If we access news from a variety of sources, we’ll be able to tell when one piece of news is not quite right. If we can’t recognize it, a dissident version will come up somewhere and that should alert us to be cautious about believing the fake news.
Happy online reading!