By Sin Chew Daily
Fake news, maliciously photoshopped pictures and videos are becoming increasingly common nowadays.
A video clip that went viral recently showed a lion dance group seemingly refusing to perform in front of Prime Minister Najib Razak. However, it was later proven that the video had been selectively clipped and spitefully headlined in a bid to confuse and mislead the public.
The internet world knows no boundaries and in an era of omnipresent information, it won’t be easy for people on social media to confirm the authenticity of a piece of news spread on cyberspace.
Take the lion dance performance for instance, not even the Chinese people will understand the profound significance of each and every bit of it, let alone non-Chinese. As such, it has become a convenient tool for irresponsible individuals to exploit the weaknesses of humanity to distort the facts in the hope of advancing their own evil intentions.
If the malicious video editing had a political motive, it only shows one thing, that the politicians or their supporters involved in this trick have been running out of more respectful strategies such that they have to resort to such a mean smearing tactic to gain attention.
Moreover, distorting and politicising the Chinese traditional culture during Lunar New Year celebrations has done irreparable damage to the healthy development of the cultural legacy, and negated the efforts and contributions of devoted cultural workers and enthusiasts.
Social media and the internet in general, are teeming with fake news and images, and this phenomenon is closely related to the populist politics that is taking the world in a big way now.
Take last year’s US presidential election for example, The New York Times attributed the “age of post-truth politics” to the combination of populist movements and social media.
“Individuals have growing opportunities to shape their media consumption around their own opinions and prejudices, and populist leaders are ready to encourage them.”
Populist politicians will exploit the internet to hijack public consensus, controlling the voters’ minds with information and messages that strike a chord with them such that the recipients will gradually lose their ability to think independently and will no longer believe in the truth.
To some extent, this will infinitely amplify the various conflicts already present in our society, aggravating the split existent between individuals of different social classes, ethnic communities and affiliations. There are signs such a trend is expanding in our world, wreaking tremendous harm to the democratic system.
The most basic way of tackling the invasion of false internet news is to remain sufficiently sober and judgmental to tell the authenticated news from unverified ones as soon as we are fed with the messages.
Another crucial point is that social media must be able to erect an exacting vetting mechanism to block fake news. After the US election, Facebook and Google have pledged to look into ways to effectively stamp out fake news and messages.
As a traditional media operator, there is no way we should allow ourselves to be led by the nose in the midst of profuse confusion.
We are duty-bound to harness our professional strength to weed out what is untrue and ill-intentioned through our sophisticated editing and verification processes to accurately report what is factual and unreservedly display the whole and genuine face of a specific issue from macroscopic perspectives.
Sin Chew Daily is a local vernacular publication
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