Combating Fake News

AAYLF delegate from Vietnam Hoang Nguyen Nhat Vi investigates the threat of fake news to society in an increasingly digital world.

The World Economic Forum listed viral misinformation as one of the biggest global threats to human society [1]. ‘A fictitious report relating to current events which is fabricated, and often titled misleadingly, with the deliberate purpose of deceiving users and motivating them to disseminate the report’ [2] is how fake news is defined academically. Fabricated news, predominantly via social media platforms, now seamlessly shapes news audiences’ thoughts not only about politics but also about economic and social issues. 

As a community with fast-growing Internet and social media penetration [3], ASEAN is vulnerable to the widespread use of fake news. Similarly, the news about Labor’s ‘death tax’ during the recent federal election triggered debate about fake news and how to tackle it in Australia [4]. Having diverse approaches towards the issue, ASEAN and Australia are encountering challenges to mutually accomplishing this goal. Therefore, my article highlights the challenges facing the region, followed by recommendations to enhance effective cooperation.

Different fake news landscape in ASEAN 

Despite the establishment of the Framework and Joint Declaration to Minimise the Harmful Effect of Fake News in 2018 [5], it is challenging for ASEAN to cooperatively put policy into practice since each member state has a different fake news landscape. In different states, disinformation campaigns have been carried out by different entities including individuals, syndicates, or terrorists, etc. As a result, unequal weight is placed on the problem. For instance, the Thai government established an anti- fake news center on November 1st [6] while in Myanmar, where ‘Facebook is Internet’, there has been little effort from the government to address fabricated information against religious minorities on social media [7,8]. In other words, these discrepancies have hindered ASEAN member states from dealing with the problem on the same scale. 

Controversial Australian Code of conduct for digital platforms 

In the early stages of combating fake news, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended a new code of conduct for digital platforms. This would be enforced by an independent regulator, such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority’ ‘to govern the handling of complaints about inaccurate information’ [9] according to the latest report of digital platforms inquiry. However, the Digital Industry Group Inc, a non-profit association representing the social media and digital giants in Australia, contents that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ code imposes an unfair burden on tech giants since the act of removing a fabricated post ‘may be considered as intrusive and inappropriate on a private messaging platforms’ [10]. 

Recommendations for further ASEAN – Australia collaboration 

In order to maintain political, economic and social stability in the region, it is imperative that ASEAN and Australia enhance collaboration to combat fake news. A primary step to crack the barriers is to determine the mutual goals, concerns, and weaknesses, alongside the contrasting approaches amongst countries in the region [11]. This would illustrate a clearer direction in areas of cooperation so that discrepancies could be negotiated and adjusted based on the mutual aims. 

Besides, universities should initiate news literacy campaigns through workshops, initiative competitions, and youth forums to raise students’ awareness about misinformation and their responsibilities in stopping its spread. 

As fake news was originally designed to be shared, social media firms in the region should redesign the choice architecture of the ‘share’ button, asking users to question themselves more about the credibility and the veracity of the source before sharing a piece of news. On the other hand, other tech giants may collaborate with the Communications Ministry to develop a fact-check software which offers browser extensions as well as a built-in plugin on social media for instant fake news detection and credible news source provision.

References

  1. Global Risks 2013. (2019). Digital Wildfires in a Hyperconnected World. [online] Available at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/risk-case-1/digital-wildfires-in- a-hyperconnected-world/ [Accessed 8 Nov. 2019]. 
  2. Burshtein, S. 2017, “The True Story on Fake News”, Intellectual Property Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 397-446. 
  3. ASEANFocus: Social Media in Southeast Asia. (2018). [pdf] ASEAN Studies Centre. Available at: https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ASEANFocus%20Oct%202018.pdf [Accessed 9 Nov. 2019]. 
  4. Dr Caroline Fisher, D. (2019). Australians are fact-checking to combat fake news. [online] The Canberra Times. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/ 6213952/australians-are-fact-checking-to-combat-fake-news/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2019]. 
  5. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (2018). FRAMEWORK AND JOINT DECLARATION TO MINIMISE THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF FAKE NEWS. [online] Available at: https://asean.org/storage/2012/05/Annex-5-Framework-Declr-Fake- News.pdf [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019]. 
  6. The Straits Times. (2019). Thailand unveils ‘anti-fake news’ centre to police the Internet. [online] Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thailand-unveils- anti-fake-news-centre-to-police-the-internet [Accessed 10 Nov. 2019]. 
  7. BBC News. (2019). Is prison time for ‘fake news’ fair?. [online] Available at: https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43637744 [Accessed 9 Nov. 2019]. 
  8. Nikkei Asian Review. (2019). Asia’s war on ‘fake news’ raises real fears for free speech. [online] Available at: https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Asia-s-war-on-fake- news-raises-real-fears-for-free-speech [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019]. 
  9. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2019). Digital Platforms Inquiry – Final Report. Canberra, Australia. 
  10. Karp, P. (2019). Google and Facebook reject plan for Australian code of conduct on fake news. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/ 2019/sep/12/google-and-facebook-reject-plan-for-australian-code-of-conduct-on-fake- news [Accessed 10 Nov. 2019]. 
  11. Diplomat, T. (2019). Southeast Asia’s Battle Against Disinformation. [online] THE DIPLOMAT. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2019/02/southeast-asias-battle-against- disinformation/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].

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