Fake news, Facebook and fanning emotions


March 30, 2018

Fake news, Facebook and fanning emotions

by Nathaniel Tan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Fake news, Facebook and fanning emotions

COMMENT | Not so long ago, food trucks were a craze here in Kuala Lumpur. I enjoyed their novelty as much as the next guy. But at some point, it occurred to me… these aren’t new. We’ve had food trucks here almost as long as we’ve had trucks – lok lok, sugar cane, rojak and/or cendol, to name but a few.

Fake news is a little bit like that. It’s entered out lexicon in a way that suggests it was invented when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. The truth is, that stuff goes back way further.

Image result for Tengku Razaeigh Hamzah in Christian Head gear

One 28-year-old example of fake news comes from when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was accused by UMNO of having Christian leanings, simply because a young woman in Sabah put traditional Kadazan headgear on his head that apparently had a cross somewhere in its design. Some say it cost him the 1990 general election.

Existing laws sufficient

One criticism of these new fake news bills, both here and in Singapore, is that there already exist plenty of laws to deal with the spreading of misinformation or lies.

This is entirely true. There is no way a country like Singapore would not already have plenty of ways to slap you six ways to Sunday for publishing something even remotely untrue.

The manner in which all these countries are now jumping on the fake news bandwagon and enacting unnecessary new legislation suggests that this action is not borne out of any genuine commitment to truth and responsible journalism, but merely a “fashionable” excuse to ramp up repression.

In Malaysia at least, the new laws are horribly worded and give an insane amount of power to the state to literally define what is true and what is not.

Giving this power to institutions that do not have the best reputation with regard to integrity and impartiality, to say the least, seems little more than an extension of the crackdown on legitimate dissent and satire.

The echo chamber

While fake news isn’t new, social media is – or relatively so, anyway. This basically means that now, like the AirAsia motto goes, everyone can publish fake news.

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Apparently, nobody understands this new power better than Russian trolls – the people some say played a pivotal role in Trump’s election. Cambridge Analytica has also apparently taken credit for that particular victory, citing its success in using data harvested from Facebook to guide micro-targeted political advertisements.

Amid these claims, I think what we should be most wary of regarding Facebook and other social media networks is the echo chamber effect.

I speculate that the success of the alleged Russian voter influence machine was predicated largely on the willingness of individuals to share material that appealed to them, and which they did not care to verify.

As our social media network often consists of people with similar views to us, what happens is that a lot of material gets bounced around similar networks – material that is often created and shaped with the explicit purpose of generating certain types of sentiment.

Over time, people often prefer platforms like Facebook, which essentially provides them with more of what they want to hear – either from like-minded people, or from microtargeted ads based on “psychographic” profiling.

Thus, a chamber where the same types of sentiment echo continuously back and forth.

What’s in a forwarded WhatsApp message?

One of the more interesting, ironic things about the “fake news” craze is that it’s used by every side.

In America, fake news probably helped get Trump elected. Simultaneously, “fake news” is also Trump’s favourite battle cry against his critics – saying for example, that the reports of Russians meddling in the American elections is, in fact, fake news.

As the circle goes round and round, it’s important not to think that it is only things we don’t like that are “fake news,” and that all other information that concurs with our pre-existing sentiment and views is genuine.

I likely share a number of demographic traits with your average Malaysiakini reader, and I speculate that many of you have received or forwarded material that is, essentially, fake news.

The examples I keep coming back to are material with an anti-Malay or anti-Muslim bent.

There are a couple of “favourites” that keep showing up again and again over the years. I think there’s one talking about how great Japan is because they don’t have any Muslims there.

Then, in the wake of the Robert Kuok controversy recently, there was another round of pro-Chinese, anti-Malay content circulating around again.

It’s a little bit of an uphill struggle, dealing with older generations in particular perhaps, but we should all do our part to encourage moderation and to make it harder for those trying to play on old prejudices and manipulate our various echo chambers for less than sanguine reasons.

The importance of objectivity

Objectivity is not a particularly common trait among humans – not consistently anyway.It’s not easy to expect people to self-police, and be aware of when they are becoming the target of manipulation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Perhaps, just as we were expecting the impending demise of traditional journalism as a result of technological evolution, we are seeing that same evolution recreate a need for professional, objective and neutral, fact-based journalism.

If news organisations can, over time, develop a solid reputation for integrity and commitment to ethical journalism, I do hope and believe that over time, society will eventually self-correct and gravitate towards more reliable sources of information.

Of course, no change happens without sufficient pushing by people who care sufficiently. Let’s hope enough of us will answer that call.

 

Malaysia’s Liar in Chief Proposes a ‘Fake News’ Bill


March 28, 2018

By: John Berthelsen

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

The concept of “fake news” has suddenly gained currency because of the rise to the US Presidency of Donald Trump, who by actual count issued more than 2,100 verifiably false statements during his first year in office while branding every negative story about his Presidency “false news.  In fact, according to the fact-checking organization PoliFact, during his first year in office Trump’s public statements were wholly true only 5 percent of the time, fully true 11 percent of the time, half-true 15 percent, mostly false 22 percent, outright false, 32 percent and “pants on fire” 15 percent of the time.

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

That’s a Fake Statement, Mr. Najib. You should be charged when the Fake News Bill become law.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has run up  a pretty good record of his own, claiming for instance that he had never met the murdered Mongolian party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu who was killed by his bodyguards in 2006 despite credible evidence that he had, that he was innocent of all wrongdoing in the purchase of French submarines although he was cited as having been the recipient of bribes by French prosecutors, that he had been cleared of all charges in the enormous 1MDB scandal in which US$4.5 billion had disappeared, that the US$681 million that found its way into his private bank accounts was a gift from Saudi royalty, and many more.

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” Jib, I did not teach you to lie”.

With national elections looming possibly as early as within days and with an increasingly unpopular government looking to limit free expression, the bill is regarded by opponents as yet another method of limiting criticism, particularly of the Prime Minister, Najib Razak.  It is aimed at quelling criticism on social media, about the last avenue left for an increasingly hemmed-in opposition.

In its inclusion of Malaysians and foreigners alike, even if they are outside of Malaysia, the bill is also aimed at critical news organizations like Sarawak Report, which has published dozens of deeply embarrassing and often incriminating stories about Malaysian crookedry, and Asia Sentinel, both of which have been barred from circulating in the country. Malaysian academic Din Merican, who affiliated with a university in Cambodia, was added to the list last week.

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Defender of the Fake (not Faith)–Mr. Said Keruak

The fake news legislation is one spike in a long list of other attempts to neuter the Pakatan Harapan opposition headed by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, including a contorted redistricting that leaves some Barisan Nasional districts with as few as 4,000 voters while cramming up to 150,000 opposition adherents into others.  The government has used sedition, official secrets and public security laws to attempt to intimidate opposition members and leaders.

Among those protesting the fake news legislation are at least 13 good government organizations including the International Commission of Jurists, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, the Kuala Lumpur-based SUARAM, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Tech giants including Facebook, Amazon, Google and others have expressed concern prior to the publication of the bill, which critics say could hurt mainstream organizations as well as the opposition, limiting access to wide amounts of industrial, business and other information as well as criticism.

“The bill is flawed in its design and will be open to abuse by the Malaysian government which maintains a poor track record in upholding freedom of expression,” said Sevan Doraisamy, SUARAM’s Executive Director, in a prepared release.

Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser added in the SUARAM release that, “The term ‘fake news’ is in itself problematic.  It is defined in an overbroad manner in the draft law, and therefore vulnerable to arbitrary interpretation and enforcement.”  Gil further said, “Given past experience in Malaysia, it is highly likely to be used to suppress legitimate criticism of the government on matters of opinion or where the facts are contested.”

The bill, according to the judicial organization, “makes no provision for exceptions or defenses such as honest mistake, parody, artistic merit, or public interest. The bill would allow up to 10 years’ imprisonment for publication of fake news.

“The penalties are wildly disproportionate”, said Gil. “Indeed, under international standards, imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for such offences.”

The bill has been introduced during the final days of the sitting of Parliament, which is expected to be dissolved soon to make way for the election, leaving little time for deliberation or consultation.

“Allowing this bill to be passed would only serve as an affront to democratic values. It will be another strike on Malaysia’s already shoddy human rights record,” said Doriasamy. “Adopting a law that would unduly limit the right to freedom of opinion and expression is not the optimal way to counter disinformation and propaganda. The best way is to disseminate accurate information and to make such information accessible to everyone,” said Gil.

In addition to the prospect of 10 years imprisonment, offenders may be subject to a fine up to RM500,000 (US$127,681) if convicted of knowingly creating, offering, publishing, printing, distributing, circulating, or disseminating any ‘fake news’ or publication of ‘fake news.’

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-najib-proposes-fake-news-bill/

Malaysia: This is what happens when UMNO loses the Battle of Ideas–Clamp down the Internet


March 7, 2018

Malaysia: This is what happens when UMNO loses the Battle of Ideas–Clamp down the Internet

https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/41329/

 

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COMMENT: Does this UMNO Politician know the difference between right and wrong? If he does, he will not be a Najib Razak/M01’s horndog and Rosmah Mansor’s Nail Polisher. This observation applies to people like Paul Low and MCA, MIC and Gerakan Leaders. When the UMNO-BN government contemplates such an action, we know that it is desperate to curtail freedom of speech. It takes strength of character and moral courage as embodied in the person of an Anwar Ibrahim to stand up for your beliefs and speak the truth. –Din Merican

 

Govt may clamp down on internet, Malaysians warned
Najib Razak’s Horndog Salleh Said Keruak says the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission may be asked to monitor social media for people posting irresponsibly. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 6, 2018.

 

THE government will step in and restore order to the internet if bloggers and social media users fail to act responsibly, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.

“Don’t allow it to come to the stage where action needs to be taken against abusers of the internet and social media,” warned Salleh on his blog today.

He said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission may be asked to monitor social media.

“After all, if you’re educated enough to use social media, then you should be educated enough to differentiate between right and wrong,” Salleh said.

He noted that bloggers and social media users had of late been acting recklessly in what they posted on the internet.

“This has probably intensified due to the upcoming general election where temperatures and sentiments are running high. We must not allow tempers to jeopardise the peace, harmony, and stability of Malaysia,” he said.

Salleh said that notwithstanding the laws controlling the abuse of social media such as the publishing of fake news, seditious and libellous postings, and so on, bloggers and social media users should be sensible and responsible enough to practice self-censorship.

“Why wait until the government needs to act or clamp down on the abuse of the internet? Malaysians know what’s socially acceptable and what’s offensive,” he said. – Bernama, March 6, 2018.

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi


December 25, 2017

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi

by S.Thayaparan @www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | “Iksim propounds the view that Islam does not come under the jurisdiction of any political power. According to it, religious enforcement authorities come under the patronage of the Sultans, not state governments. This is a remarkable vision of an autonomous, almost all-powerful, religious elite that is like a state within a state.” – Shad Saleem Faruqi

I have often referenced Pprofessor Shad Saleem Faruqi’s articles in my articles, sometimes agreeing; sometimes disagreeing with what he writes.

If someone were to tell me that Shad’s intention in anything he ever wrote was to insult or breach the peace, I would burst out in hysterical laughter. This academic (unlike this writer) has never written a polemic, as far as I can tell. In addition, I have probably read everything this man has written.

If you have not read the article, that has got Iksim all in a rage, I suggest that you read it and determine if anything in that article warrants the state security apparatus “probing” this academic under section 504 of the Penal code.

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Instead of engaging intellectually with Shad, Iksim resorted to the Islamists playbook and issued a public statement claiming that Faruqi and the G25 (Noor Farida Ariffin specifically) were attempting to cause racial disharmony and subverting the Islamic agenda as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. You can read the full statement here but the relevant passage is this:

“Tohmahan-tohmahan liar berkenaan termasuk oleh Prof Emeritus Shad Saleem Faruqi dan Datuk Noor Faridah Ariffin dari puak G25 dilihat sebagai satu cubaan untuk mencetuskan perasaan permusuhan antara kaum dan agama di negara ini. Kedua-dua mereka jelas menentang pemikiranpemikiran ke arah mendaulatkan Islam sebagai agama Negara sekalipun ia jelas termaktub dalam Perkara 3(1) dan sumpah Yang di-Pertuan Agong di bawah perkara 37(1) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.” 

In the quote that begins this piece, the good professor, questions Iksim’s perspective that Islam does not come under the purview of any political power likening such a perspective to a “state within a state.”

If you read the press statement and consider Iksim’s rationale for going after Shad and the G25, you would come to the realisation that their “unique” interpretation of the Malaysian constitution and of Islam in general, is exactly the “state within a state” idea that Shad alludes to in the quote I referenced.

Have you noticed that Islamists always claim that the people they target are attempting to cause tension amongst the various ethnic groups here in Malaysia? Is there any evidence of this? Are non-Muslims threatened or provoked by what people targeted by groups like Iksim say and do? I would argue that the only people threatened or provoked are the Islamist and the reason why they are threatened is that their views or beliefs are challenged.

Furthermore, Iksim has not rebutted the points raised in Shad’s article. They have not claimed that what he wrote was false or fallacious. They have not denied the agenda he attributes to them. What they have done, is use the state to sanction the professor and intimidate any others who subscribe to his views.

Indeed by their own admission (as quoted by Shad referencing their March 28 booklet), – “secularism, liberalism and cultural diversity are elements that will undermine the Islamic agenda and destroy the country’s sovereignty”.

In other words, according to Iksim, everything that non-Muslims value and probably a majority of Muslims are detrimental to the Islamic agenda in this country. Therefore, when Umno potentates talk of cultural diversity and protecting the faiths of non-Muslims, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of this country.

When UMNO potentates talk about the rich cultural diversity and the need to respect different cultures as envisioned by the founders of this country and which is great for tourism, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of the country.

When “liberalism” redefined as “moderation” – Islamic or otherwise – is bandied about as the foundation for economic, social and religious success by the establishment, this undermines the Islamic agenda in this country.

And you know what, they are correct. If you believe in the kind of Islam they believe in and the kind of Islam that the House of Saud, is slowly and painfully attempting to reject, all these concepts are detrimental to turning this country into an Islamic state.

An Islamic state where the primacy of syariah law and the submission of Muslims and non-Muslims to a theocratic hegemon is the natural order of things which is the desired state – and state of being – of Islamists like Iksim.

‘Islamists not interested in debate’

A couple of months ago, the crypto-fascists got their knickers in a twist when I wrote that, liberalism is only a threat to the kind of Islam tyrants preach – “Those people who fear ‘liberalism’ however they define it, in reality, fear the loss of power when empowered societies choose alternatives. So yes, liberalism is a threat to the kind of Islam they preach. Mind you they may actually win in a ‘fair’ democratic contest because that is one of the perils of democracy. Beyond institutional safeguards, democracy is a risky endeavour, but I would take it to anything these Islamists have to offer.”

While Shad Faruqi has invited them to debate and challenge his views, the reality is that Islamists are not interested in debate or discussion. Their only interest is submission. This is why they have no need for freedom of speech and expression.

There is enough empirical evidence to demonstrate that such concepts are anathema to the kind of Islam they wish to promulgate.

In many of my articles where I discuss the numerous provocations of the state-sanctioned Islam in the private and public lives of non-Muslims in Malaysia, I have always made it clear that the people feeling the brunt of a state-sanctioned religion is the majority, Malay Muslim population.

I have also made it clear, that Malay Muslim public intellectuals, academics and writers, are at the mercy of the state conspiring with various Islamists groups – sub rosa and overt – who sanction behaviour that they and they alone determine to be a threat to the state sanctioned religion.

Ultimately, Siti Kassim (will someone elect her already) has the right of it, when in her Facebook page, she wrote: “We must stand with Professor Shad Faruqi. We should never allow these extremists group taking over our country. Never. Never. Never.”


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018


December 23, 2017

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018

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Dr. Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and Din Merican in Phnom Penh wish all our friends and associates around the world a Merry Christmas 2017 and prosperous New Year, 2018. We are indeed grateful for your warm friendship and support we enjoyed during 2017. We forward to working with you in the coming year and together we can make our world a better place.
Image result for Din Merican and Kamsiah Haider
We have little time for politicians and ideologues as they are a crop of egoistic, misogynistic  and greedy people. All we have to do is to look at Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and other places to see for ourselves their handiwork. People are their victims, especially women, children and the elderly. They have lost the moral high ground and we must put our differences aside and work hard for peace.
On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year 2018, may we ask Michael Jackson to sing for us his famous song, Make The World a Better Place. –Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican.

Ops Lalang–Dr. Mahathir and Anwar are the Villians, says MCA Publicity Man


October 30, 2017

Ops Lalang–Dr. Mahathir and Anwar are the Villians, says MCA Publicity Man

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by Ti Lian Ker@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | We are now commemorating the 30th anniversary of the biggest crackdown on innocent activists, politicians from both sides of the divide (including MCA leaders ), intellectuals, academics and activists, including the revocation of the publishing licences of two dailies – the MCA-owned The Star and Sin Chew Jit Poh.

The dragnet was the landmark of then Prime inister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s draconian iron-fisted Machiavellian style of maintaining power for 22 years.

Mahathir had been an authoritarian and condemned for bringing “dooms and time bombs” to Malaysia by his political enemy – but now ally – DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.

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Ops Lalang was said to be caused by the growing racial tensions by Mahathir’s government that were said to be too “tolerant” and “liberal”. However, the real and immediate cause was the appointment of about 100 non-Mandarin speaking senior assistants to vernacular Chinese schools, which caused anxiety and fear among Chinese educationists and politicians.

On October 11, 1987, the United Chinese Schools Committee Association, also known as Dong Jiao Zong, together with Chinese politicians had gathered more than 2,000 people to protest against this decision that was seen as a direct attack on the character of Chinese vernacular schools.

Coincidentally, the Education Minister then was Anwar Ibrahim. At the time, Anwar was a rising political star and Mahathir’s protege in UMNO. Anwar repeatedly warned of retaliation and that the Education Ministry’s decision would not be changed or compromised despite pressure from component parties, including MCA.

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A week later, on October 17, 1987, UMNO Youth responded to the Thean Hou Kong 2,000 gathering with a bigger rally of 10,000, where UMNO politicians displayed their ire at MCA politicians for participating in the protest.

This was followed with a promise of a half a million UMNO members gathering on November 1, 1987, by the then UMNO Secretary-General Sanusi Junid, who is a Mahathir loyalist. This was calculated and meant to increase the tempo of racial tension.

However, on or about October 27, 1987, Ops Lalang was carried out, targeting Chinese activists, academicians, politicians, etc, who were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA). They were arrested and detained without trial by the order of the Home Minister, who was also the prime minister.

Looking back, the protagonists or “villains” of the dark period known as Ops Lalang were none other than Mahathir and Anwar.

Was the blatant and forceful decision to appoint a large number of non-Mandarin speaking teachers to helm Chinese vernacular schools intentional? Was this decision made knowing that it would provoke a massive “violent” reaction from Chinese educationists and politicians?

Were the events leading to Ops Lalang orchestrated by both Mahathir and Anwar?

Ironically, we are now asked by the biggest critic of these two “villains” who was also a victim of Ops Lalang, Kit Siang, to vote and support these “villains”.

DAP and Kit Siang might have chosen to forgive and absolve these “villains” but there are others, including MCA politicians, who were innocent victims of this blatant abuse of power. We cannot allow a repeat of such a politically heinous act. Never again!


TI LIAN KER is MCA publicity spokesperson and religious harmony bureau chairperson.