Teach social media literacy in schools, says Sabah minister

Sabah Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe (centre) says youths must be educated to detect falsehoods and half-truths online at an early age. He is flanked by Sabah assistant finance minister Kenny Chua and film director Michelle Siow.

KOTA KINABALU: A state minister has suggested teaching of social media literacy in classrooms to educate the young to detect falsehoods and half-truths online at an early age.

Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe said the rate in which lies and fake news are published and shared over social media has reached an alarming stage throughout Malaysia, including Sabah.

If the issue is not addressed properly soon, he said, it could undermine the peace and harmony in the nation.

“It is becoming a norm and a challenge to the whole world, not only Sabah and Malaysia. It is also a threat to democracy; if you look at the American and British election campaigns, there was tremendous and overwhelming fake news.

“I am sure that in future election campaigns in Malaysia, more fake news will come up. So we really need to tackle this issue. If not, it could tear us apart.

“We should teach those in schools how to analyse real or fake news,” Phoong, who is also the Sabah DAP socialist youth chief, said after officiating the launch of a movie production here today.

Previously, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang had issued challenges to the youths in Malaysia to promote social media literacy.

As part of his campaign against fake news and hate speech, Lim had said youths – whom he defined as being between 16 and 25 – must be informed citizens and critical thinkers who could detect lies, half-truths and falsehoods.

Phoong, who is also the Luyang assemblyman, supported Lim’s sentiments, saying there was a tendency among people to take news reports, even if unverified, as the truth.

He advised youths in Sabah to take their own initiative to seek the truth by carrying out their own research.

“I would like to encourage our young people to be intellectual, rational and independent when it comes to reading news on social media, in fact all news,” he said.