Fake News

Case Study



What is fake news?

  1. Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
  2. Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new
  3. Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people

How to spot fake news?

Its main points are:

  1. Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
  2. Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
  3. Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
  4. Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
  5. Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
  6. Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
  7. Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgement)
  8. Ask experts (to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge).


Anti-Fake News Act 2018 – MALAYSIA

  • Any person who knowingly creates, publishes, prints, distributes (FB shares included), circulates any fake news or publication containing fake news commits an offence.
  • Fake news is defined as any info which is wholly or partly false, in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.
  • Upon conviction, the punishment is a fine not exceeding RM500,000, or jail term not exceeding 10 years, or both.
  • Anyone who even provides financial assistance for the purpose of committing this offence can also be convicted.
  • Anyone who knows that something is fake news has a duty to remove it or else they face the music too. The punishment: RM100,000. In the case of continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding RM3,000 for every day the offence continues after conviction.

*Malaysia is among the first few countries to bring in laws against fake news. The bill defines fake news as “any news, information, data and reports which is, or are, wholly or partly false whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas”. It covers all media and extends to foreigners outside Malaysia if Malaysia or its citizens are affected. In terms of broadband use, there has been an 113% increase in every 100 Malaysians, and 131% increase among handphone users.

What countries around the world are doing to combat the epidemic Legislations across the globe

March 31, 2018

By Mahasweta Muthusubbarayan

One of the linguistic effects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and tenure has been the popularisation of the term ‘fake news’ around the globe, with the controversial US president using it to attack media houses which have been critical of him. The phenomenon has caught the fancy of numerous political leaders and heads of states across the globe, with the allegations of ‘fake news’ serving as a shield to protect their reputations and those of their governments. From Germany and France to Singapore and Malaysia, the trend of formulating government actions and strategies to curb ‘fake news’ is catching on, one after the other, within a short span of time.

Malaysia’s anti-fake news bill
The Malaysian government has tabled a criminal legislation to prevent and punish the publication and spread of fake news. The legislation will include, within its purview, all forms of media and will even punish foreigners outside Malaysia, if the interests of the Malaysian state or its citizens are adversely affected. The legislation has defined the term ‘fake news’ as “any news, information, data and reports which is, or are, wholly or partly false whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas”. The proposed law will be passed by the Parliament in all likelihood, as Prime Minister Najib Razak leads a majority government. Once enacted, the law will penalise the creation, offering, circulation, publication or printing of fake news with a fine up to 500,000 ringgits or a prison sentence ranging up to ten years or both. While the statement of objects of the Bill provides that the Act is aimed at safeguarding the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected, the Bill has attracted vociferous criticism, both for its timing as well as its potential for misuse by the government. Malaysia’s law has come just before possible general elections when its prime minister has been implicated in a huge graft scandal.

The German law
Although quite a few prominent countries are in the process of considering laws against fake news, Germany has the distinction of bringing in the first major anti-fake news legislation. Its Network Enforcement Act targets social media platforms and websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which have more than two million users). It requires them to remove and block fake news, potentially hate-inciting content. and other illegal content prohibited by the Criminal Code, within 24 hours of being notified of the same by a user or the government (in the case of manifestly unlawful content). The time-limit is extendable up to a week in other complex cases (depending on the degree of factual verification required). Illegal content essentially refers to the material which would affect the protection of the democratic constitutional state, public order, personal honour and sexual self-determination.

Violation of this enactment could result in a fine up to 50 million euros. The Act, which was passed in late 2017, provided for a transition period to ensure compliance with the new law but has been in effect in toto since January 1, 2018. The German law is mainly criticised on the ground that it is loosely worded and private bodies have been endowed with the function of determining whether some particular content is in violation of the new law, as these websites might inadvertently restrict free speech in their attempts not to run afoul of the law.

The situation in other countries
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was a victim of fake reports during his campaign, has proposed to bring in a legislation outlawing proliferation of fake news by the end of 2018. One of the measures allegedly being proposed is vesting judges with emergency powers during elections to order the removal of fake content or blocking of a website. The new law would also bring in measures to ensure transparency with regard to the people behind sponsorships and advertisements so as to deter false propaganda.

The Singaporean government issued a Green Paper on the challenges and implications of deliberate online falsehoods in January 2018. A Parliamentary Select Committee has completed public hearings and will soon submit its recommendations to the government on a possible law against fake news.

The Philippines has three Bills against fake news pending before its legislature, although President Duterte has stated that he does not believe that they will be enacted into law. Two of these Bills deal with fake news in general, covering fabricated content, malicious intent, etc., whereas the third one specifically targets dissemination of false news and information by public officials.

In 2017, two Russian lawmakers also proposed a Bill aimed at punishing individuals and social media companies with hefty fines for the publication of false information. The Duma has not yet cleared the Bill. Brazil has established a Consultative Council to monitor and order the blocking of false news reports on social media ahead of the 2018 elections. The Brazilian Congress is also in the process of considering a Bill which will criminalise the publication and sharing of any false or incomplete information on the internet to the detriment of any private individual or legal person.

Indonesia and the Czech Republic have adopted a different approach. Instead of enacting laws, they have formed a Cyber Security Agency and a government unit respectively, to fact-check and flag false news and information online.

The common factors
What is common among all these laws, whether enacted or proposed, is that they mostly target social media and elections, thereby evoking criticism for allegedly being politically motivated. Another common factor is that they appear to be loosely worded and do not focus much on the traditional forms of media, such as newspapers, televisions, journals, etc. Further, all of them are heavy on the criminal aspects, punishing the dissemination of fake news with fine and imprisonment. Most importantly, all of them have been heavily criticised by social media companies, international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, opposition political parties and sometimes, even the UN, for their potential to benefit governmental regimes by curbing free speech and expression.

Effectiveness of these laws
While the problem of fake news is proving to be something of a menace in the internet age, there are a number of practical problems associated with implementation and enforcement of these legislations. To begin with, the definition of fake news is in itself problematic. The degree of falsity required for the punishment to apply is not something which has been explicitly dealt with by any of these legislations. Moreover, they have not addressed the standard of proof required from the defendant to establish the veracity of the material. This, coupled with the delegation of determination of falsity of the news to private bodies and government agencies, will lead to more judicial challenges, on both defensive as well as constitutional grounds. The obvious conclusion appears that the task is best left to the judiciary but it is not again practicable for the judiciary to determine every instance of fake news. The law would be more credible if the government constituted a body consisting of members from the executive and the judiciary as well as the general public for the purpose of conducting these inquiries and the results are made available in the public forum.

Potential for misuse
All of these laws, being criminal legislations intent to disseminate fake news, would be the prime factor in deciding culpability. Yet, these legislations do not appear to be making provisions for exceptions in cases of an honest mistake or innocent dissemination without knowledge of falsity. It is not clear whether the same degree of liability would fall on the person who creates the fake news (the principal) as well as the person/entity that spreads it (the accessory). Further, these laws do not provide for a civil aspect of providing compensation to any private individual or legal entity which has been directly affected and injured on account of being the subject of the fake news in question. Their interaction with the laws of elections, defamation and sedition would also have to be studied, as the subject-matter of these laws overlaps to some extent. Fake news coupled with sedition would be a deadly tool in the hands of a government to muzzle dissent.

Thus, while fake news might be a real problem, caution is required in the application of these laws to ensure the protection of primary constitutional rights. Most constitutions provide for exceptions to freedom of speech and expression on certain grounds based on public interest. Fake news would very well fall within some of these exceptions. Nevertheless, judgement has to be made on a case-by-case basis and not by any blanket standard.



Fake news can make – or break – stock prices

IN the Hollywood blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street, the main character Jordan Belford (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) made it rich from his “pump-and-dump” schemes.

Belford’s firm Stratton Oakmont schemed to inflate the prices of stocks by making false, misleading or greatly exaggerated statements. When stock prices rose due to the resulting hype, he would then sell stocks at the raised prices, making a fortune in the process.

Such practices are illegal and regulators worldwide clamp down on these schemes, punishing those who perpetrate them.

The modern day “pump-and-dump” scams go by a new name – “fake news”.

Over the past few weeks in Singapore, a Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods has held a series of public hearings involving academics, executives from social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, as well as editors from the two main media companies Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp.

The focus of the committee is to look at how deliberate fake news can impact social cohesion (for example, making a minority group feel like they are being picked on by law enforcement agencies) as well as politics (for example, Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections) and whether new laws are needed to combat the problem.

But the growing spread of fake news goes beyond impacting politics and society as a whole.

Corporations and the stock markets are also vulnerable to such falsehoods.


In 2013, a tweet sent out on the official Twitter account of the Associated Press (AP) about two explosions in the White House that had injured then US President Barack Obama wiped out more than US$130 billion in stock value in a matter of minutes; the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 143.5 points.

AP later said its Twitter account had been hacked.

Even though stock prices quickly recovered, this incident highlighted the potential power of using – or misusing – social media to swing the stock market one way or the other.

In 2015, the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed fraud charges against a Scottish trader whose tweets caused the stock prices of two companies to drop by as much as 28 per cent so that he could profit from the swings.

These tweets, sent from Twitter accounts he had set up using names similar to real market research firms, cost shareholders to lose more than US$1.6 million, said court documents.

Then, there are also deliberately misleading “news”.

In 2012, Seeking Alpha, an American website focused on finance, ran an article titled “Another revival could be in store for ImmunoCellular Therapeutics”. It highlighted the US drug company’s work in developing a cancer treatment that would provide a cheaper alternative to its rival’s offering.

Over the next few months, ImmunoCellular’s share price soared, almost tripling from US$42.80 on the day the article was published to an all-time high of US$155.20 six months later.

But over time, with the drug company failing to come up with any approved treatment, share prices plunged. It now hovers in the US$0.20 – US$0.30 range.

It emerged several years later that ImmunoCellular had actually paid a writer to publish the article on Seeking Alpha.

The SEC investigated at least 200 articles on Seeking Alpha where there was no clear disclosure as to who paid for the articles. The regulator also found similar incidences across many other investment websites.

The SEC eventually charged 10 companies and 11 individuals with fraud, with most of them agreeing to pay fines of between US$2,200 and US$3 million.

The widespread use of fake news to influence stock markets concerned the SEC enough for it to issue a warning against seemingly independent articles on finance websites that are actually part of a “paid stock-promotion campaign”.

“Keep in mind that fraudsters may generate articles promoting a company’s stock to drive up the stock price and to profit at your expense,” the regulator warned investors.

Cryptocurrencies are not immune to such online manipulations.

In fact, some would say that cryptocurrencies are particularly susceptible to fake news as they are still relatively unknown and are largely unregulated.

It is, after all, a currency that confuses a lot of people, but is still extremely attractive to plenty of over-eager traders hoping to strike it rich.

Business Insider UK reported in November last year that crypto traders use the secure messaging app Telegram to orchestrate “pump- and-dump” scams by getting a few buyers to act at specific times and then sell off quickly when prices have gone up.

In January this year , a fake Twitter account purportedly belonging to cybersecurity firm McAfee’s boss John McAfee sent out a tweet promoting a cryptocurrency GVT as the “coin of the day”.

He had developed a reputation for being a bit of a cryptocurrency “sage”, having been one of the first to tout bitcoin as the currency of the future long before its recent surge. His “recommendation” of GVT thus carried a lot of weight.

Within four minutes of the tweet from the fake account, GVT’s value went from US$30 to US$45 and trading volume more than doubled.

Bitcoin has also been prone to sudden dips in value amid suggestions and rumours that some countries are contemplating banning its use and trading.


So where do all these leave the investor, or even banker for that matter?

In a world where investors perceive that a minute of hesitation or indecision may cause them to lose big bucks, the pressure to react quickly to breaking “news” which could affect stock prices is extremely high.

But making hasty decisions, especially in the stock market, has never made anyone rich.

The two major sources of fake news in Singapore are WhatsApp and Facebook, according to a recent survey by government feedback unit Reach.

So, if a friend forwards you a WhatsApp message, do not immediately take it to be gospel truth. Take the effort to double check the allegations made.

One way to do this is to look for the story on legitimate news websites. If most of the trusted and established media outlets have run the story, it is more likely to be true.

Another way is to scrutinise the article properly. Look out for quotes and confirmations of certain facts by parties directly involved in the story. A story with no official confirmation or statements from the parties involved should raise alarm bells as to its authenticity.

On top of looking through media stories, you should go directly to the source to check the facts.

Most corporations and even government agencies have a social media account nowadays. Look for their official accounts on the various social media platforms to see if they have issued any statement regarding the particular story.

It is also important to note that just because a tweet or message has been shared by many people, or gone “viral” in online lingo, does not make a falsehood suddenly true.

And if you are still inclined to believe that a piece of news may be real, always consult your relationship manager to verify things.

In current conditions, where real news are already causing markets to consistently change course, the last thing investors need is for fake news to seep into the system and cause more volatility.

Until the authorities find a way to weed out such fake news, the best thing investors can do is to stay calm and “double confirm” everything.

  • James Cheo, APR 06, 2018  – The writer is senior investment strategist at the Bank of Singapore




Target Audience?



‘Sharing a lie makes you a liar’ says Telekom Malaysia in anti-fake news campaign

March 29, 2018 8:04

Telekom Malaysia has launched an aggressive outdoor campaign in Kuala Lumpur targeting youths who may feel tempted to share fake news.

The broadband powerhouse has splashed out on a series of MRT billboards bearing the slogan ‘Sharing a lie makes you a liar’ juxtaposed images of young people on their phones bearing long Pinocchio-style noses.

Unveiled as tension heightens over proposals by the Malaysian government to jail fake news ‘perpetrators’ for up to 10 years, the campaign concludes with the slogan ‘Stop ‘Fitnah [rebellious] Internet’ and an accompanying hashtag #FITNET.

The proposals, tabled as Malaysia prepares to hold a general election, have drawn widespread concern from both international and local media owners as well as Human Rights groups. Independent news site The Malaysiakini went as far as to call the potential bill an “Orwellian nightmare”.

Created by Grey Kuala Lumpur, with media planning and buying overseen by UM, the campaign is understood not to be linked to the government’s bill.

A TM spokesperson said: “The TM #FITNET visual is part of our public service announcement campaign to educate members of the public to stop spreading fake news via social media.”

In addition to the OOH, TM’s broadband brand UniFi has also been active in promoting the message on its Twitter page, while additional campaign elements are expected to be unveiled next week.

Eleanor Dickinson is the editor of Mumbrella Asia. Eleanor joined the Asia platform from Dubai, where she acted as senior reporter for Campaign Middle East.