Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Verify before you Vilify 

Salleh Said Keruak

The Internet is flooded with both authentic and fake news.

It is impractical and difficult to monitor or control a user’s access to the mass amount of content found online; so it is left to us, the user, to exercise self-censorship and to verify all news shared over our social media feeds.

Last month, there was news on an extortion case said to have taken place somewhere in Sarikei, Sarawak. The alleged case was neither reported nor verified with the Police but the news had gone viral over social media.

Another was the ‘Apai Nyamun’ viral post. The postings claimed, “a few longhouse residents in Bintulu, Tatau and Mukau had been snatched on two separate incidents for their heads and organs, which would be sold”.

Investigations by the police showed that the incidents did not take place and that “irresponsible people are trying to scare the people in Bintulu”.

Irresponsible posts like these can create unnecessary confusion, anxiety and, in some extreme cases, panic and fear among the general populace.

There are ethical and legal implications when one shares unverified news and information online.

There is also the concern of unscrupulous scammers.  Some posts that you like or share over your social media feeds can make Internet scammers richer.

Most of these posts seems harmless – posts that asks you to like and share a photo to win an iPad, or to “like a post if you hate cancer”, for instance.

Thousands of these photos are circulated and while most users think that sharing these posts on their timelines is harmless, there is a negative side to it.

This process is apparently known as “like farming”; a method used by scammers to urge users to like and share fake news or links online to gain more traction for a Facebook page that later, will be sold to marketing companies or worst, used to help spread more profitable scams.

It could also lead to a virus that deactivates your social media account, which later asks for your credit card details in order to activate it. Spreading viral hoaxes makes you susceptible to getting your personal information stolen.

In conclusion, don’t blindly click, like and share things that you see on your newsfeed, without fully understanding the details behind the headlines or the truth about the story. As most social media fraud experts warn, “If it is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam”.

Uploading and sharing unverified news can also land you into trouble, so be careful when hitting the ‘Share’ or ‘Retweet’ button the next time some sensationalised news pops up on your Timeline.


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