Educate ‘aunties’ or ‘uncles’ from spreading fake news

By Sarah Sofiyyah 

All around the world we are now facing the most dangerous virus, a well-known virus that can silently kill people without having any symptoms – coronavirus. 

31 December 2021 will mark two years of living with this unwanted yet threatening virus to innocent people. 

This brutal virus is not even considering your gender, age, religion, ethnicity, or even position, it will haunt and harm you until your last breath. 

If you think that you are coming from a family fed with silver spoon, always having the ability to get the easy and unlimited excess of everything in life, do not ever think of getting excuses. 

You are not excluded from getting this virus in your body. 

Ever since the first cases reported in Wuhan on 31 December 2019, the virus has spread like wildfire to other countries. Which made other countries at first unaware and unbothered about the virus freak out with panic buying at supermarkets nationwide. 

COVID-19 patients and death cases due to the virus were reported climbing significantly. 

As for Malaysia, there are 533,367 confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients with  2,432 death tolls reported by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MoH) on their Twitter page recently. 

Yet the most dangerous “virus” during this pandemic is not solely the virus itself, but the misinformation or fake news regarding the virus.

As we can see from the trend, many Malaysians, especially groups of elderly, blindly believed what they received from forwarded WhatsApp messages rather than believing in the genuine medical doctor’s advice. 

For senior citizens, a WhatsApp chat group is the primary medium for them to receive and share the “effective” tips that they received from their best friend’s son or daughter. However, they just simply accepted without doing fast checking on the message whether it is authentic or not.

Based on a study, one of the reasons people fall for fake news is because of the consensus which people think they need to be  “consistent ” in spreading the message to the next person. 

This act is entirely different from the young generation as they value and apply critical thinking after checking the viral tips from “Mak Teh” to drink a lot of coconut water to prevent from the virus.

That new viral message has been getting a lot of attention from various people, including MoH and former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad.

The audio is one of the examples of forwarded messages that is normally and typically found on the WhatsApp chat group. 

The misleading news will never bring benefit, yet it can cause more unnecessary worry to people especially among senior citizens.

At this point, we, as the young generation, are highly encouraged to educate the elderly on how to distinguish between facts and fake news. 

What can you do to determine if they come from reliable and credible sources? Here are some of the ways using the S.I.F.T Method created by Mike Caulfield to help you:

  • S stands for Stop 

Before you share the texts, Stop and ask yourself whether you are familiar with the information or the website; if no, do not read or share it with others.

  • I stands for Investigate 

Investigate the expertise on the source, is it trustworthy enough to share?

Is Mak Teh an expert in the medical field?

  • F stands for Find better coverage

If you find yourself doubting the news, drop it, find more reliable information to determine the accuracy of the statement. 

  • T means trace to the original context

Trace their texts, words, pictures until you find the original context. If you have not seen it, do not do anything, just delete the message. 

Another way to prevent fake news is to report to the authority like Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). However, the Chairman of MCMC, Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek, said legal action should be the last resort to help the community change their mindset. 

We should stop other “aunties and uncles” from spreading misleading news about COVID-19.***

(This opinion piece is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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