Survey: Trust in media up, but Malaysians worry about fake news

A disengagement with major news organisations has led to a rise in uncertainty over what is real and what is fake news. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: While many Malaysians are concerned about fake news, their trust in the media, government, business, and NGOs has risen in the past year.

According to a trust and credibility survey by global communications marketing firm Edelman, more Malaysians trust top businessmen over the government when it comes to leading change.

The Edelman Trust Barometer also said 73% of Malaysians polled expressed concern about the potential negative impact of fake news. This worry is not just in Malaysia, as according to the survey, almost seven out of 10 people surveyed worldwide said they are concerned that fake news may be used as a weapon.

Edleman conducted the survey in 28 countries, contacting 1,150 general population respondents and 200 informed respondents per country.

According to the survey, 45% of respondents admitted to being disengaged with major news organisations, saying they only read or hear the news “not even once a week”.

“This has led to the rise in the uncertainty about what is real and what is fake news, with 63% agreeing to the fact that an average person cannot distinguish rumours from good journalism,” Edelman said in a press statement.

However, the Edelman survey showed Malaysia has moved up from being in a “state of distrust” to “neutral” in the trust barometer, after the Malaysia Trust Index recorded a five-point climb, from 48% last year to 53% this year, among the general population and over eight points (57% to 65%) among the informed public.

The index reflects the average percentage of a country’s trust in institutions of government, business, media, and NGOs. Overall, there was a 19% jump in trust in the four institutions.

Worldwide, trust in the media remained below 50% in 22 of the 28 countries polled. In Malaysia, although the media trust level was still below 50%, it rose by 5 points to 47%.

The survey showed that 59% of Malaysian respondents trust NGOs, up one point; 60% trust business, up four points; and 46% trust the government, up nine points.

“This overall sense of optimism was tempered by the rise of the fake news phenomenon, as 73% of Malaysians echoed the global sentiment and concern about the potential negative impact of fake news,” said Edelman.

Meanwhile, The Edge Markets said Malaysia came out as one of only two countries in Asia Pacific surveyed by Edelman that put businesses responsible for leading change over government institutions.

It quoted Edelman Malaysia’s managing director Mazuin Zin as saying: “This year’s result presented a rather compelling case on how the public views businesses, with 33% of Malaysians believing that businesses are better equipped to lead us into the future.”

About 71% of Malaysians believe that CEOs “should lead change that has a larger social good, as corporations would need to demonstrate their commitment to the betterment of society”.

Zin was quoted as saying that companies which wanted to earn the public’s trust had to think and act like a media company by constantly informing and engaging with their audience.