Fake News in The Malaysian 14th General Election: Shall the Net Be Free Forever?
Keywords:social media, disinformation, online fake news, online illegal content
Malaysia had its 14th General Election on 9th May 2018 that resulted in a change of government from the Barisan Nasional (BN) who ruled since 1957’s independence to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Acknowledging the power that social media had in influencing voters, The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) was mobilised to hunt dissenters, where some cases resulted in successful prosecution. Despite the drastic move taken to enact the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 one month before the election, the previous government failed to convince the public that fake news was grave threats to society. Instead, the above initiative may have contributed to BN’s painful defeat against the inexperienced PH. After the election, PH faced similar issues of having to deal with a plethora of fake news online and the ‘gun’ had now turned towards them. The PH Ministers had difficult times correcting misstatements issued through social media which was flooded with sarcastic trolls, some of which may amount to illegal content. Through a qualitative method, this article assesses how social media influenced the landscape of 14th GE. Consequently, international and national legal frameworks have been developed to combat the dissemination of fake news online, as analysed in the second part of this paper. The third part further examines how popular social media platforms provide countermeasures in dealing with fake news and how far legal frameworks correspond to the practices of service providers. It is hypothesised that in time, the PH coalition should have turned towards censoring the internet as done by the previous BN government due to the emerging threat of online fake news all over the world.
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