Daily Express chief editor James Sarda hopes that 'fake' news will compel readers to turn away from social media and return to the print media
KOTA KINABALU - The editor of a leading English daily in Sabah has warned of the possibility of “fake” news influencing the outcome of the coming general election.
The bombardment of “fake” news, in the closing stages of the US presidential campaign, is believed to have led to Hillary Clinton’s defeat, said Daily Express chief editor James Sarda, in a paper at a luncheon talk in the Sabah capital.
There was the supposed suicide of a person involved in Clinton’s emails which were investigated. “This was at the 11th hour in the campaign,” said the editor. “The rebuttal came too late.”
“If ‘fake’ news can have such an impact on the presidential elections, what about the coming general election in Malaysia? he asked in his paper on the challenges facing the print media industry.
If this can happen in the US, he reiterated, and Google and big data bosses cannot deal with the phenomenon, “apa lagi (what more) in Malaysia”.
Closer to home, Sarda noted that Myanmar blames “fake” news – on alleged persecution of the Rohingya – for the on-going diplomatic tension with Malaysia.
There was also “fake” news on former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad purportedly passing away of heart failure in Germany. The “news” was attributed to a “Telegraph TV”.
“In the US, ‘fake’ news on Facebook led to a man taking two guns into a pizza outlet and shooting people at random,” said Sarda. “The news on Facebook claimed the outlet was a haunt for paedophiles.”
He was expressing hope that “fake” news will compel the people to turn away from the social media and return to the regular media, the print medium in particular.
“Social media has become a major problem because people prefer it,” he said. “It’s free but not accurate.”
Sarda feels the people would return to the print media if the government does not abuse certain legislation including the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
“The Sabah water contracts, for example, have been stamped under the OSA,” he said. “A scandal of such proportion would not have been possible if the media was in the picture.”
He called for a “Freedom of Information” Act (FOI) – besides the government not abusing the OSA – and with good reasons too.
Already, even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has conceded that his powerful medium was being abused.
Initially, Zuckerberg thought that “fake” news on Facebook was just 1%.
Apparently, this was “misleading”, since all it takes was just one “like” in Facebook to make a news item immediately accessible to millions in the social media.
German, French and Italian politicians are now worried as they prepare for their forthcoming electoral battles.