By: Sonny Zulhuda
We have those usual greeting lines every morning such as ‘How are you today?’ or ‘Have you had a breakfast?’
What about these lines: ‘Have you received any hoax today?’ Or worse.. ‘Have you spread any hoax today?’ ….
Yes. Like it or not, hoax is now inseparable from our life. Just before I spoke in the Saturday ASEAN Youth Conference 2018 in IIUM on this topic, I received ‘news’ that Obike Malaysia stopped its business in Malaysia – which is not true!
The spreading of hoax, though existed since time immemorial, is now extremely rampant due to the advanced technology and the abundance of data around us. It seems that the bandwidth and connectivity was so good that data can even be sent before we think of sending it!
I called this as an excess of data inflation, which leads to information euphoria of a kind. Certainly we have ability of more data gathering, but somehow less on data intelligence. Owning and using a smart phone does not necessarily make us a smart person though.
With such a mishandling, information may become a disinformation, mal-information or even a misinformation. The convergence of information technology and big data have led to a “disrupted society”. A once connected and interconnected society is now “over-connected”, borrowing the phrase from William’s Davidow’s book “Overconnected”.
But, what makes sharing hoaxes is so appealing? Partisanship, Naivety, dramatisation, identity and self-actualisation can be the reason behind it.
- Partisanship: sending hoax (despite the fakeness) conforms to the sender’s existing beliefs;
- Identity: the act of sending such material proclaims one’s taste and affiliation;
- Dramatisation: the fear factor that urges people to spread a hoax such as fear of life, fear of detachment, fear of sin, fear of social evils, fear of deseases, etc;
- Naivety: deceived by all that glitters;
- Self actualisation: such as the pride of one being the “most informed person”.
Unfortunately, no matter how good or genuine someone’s intention is, sending hoax is not cool. It can even land you on legal troubles. So, let’s not take it for granted. Something must be done. Everyone can be part of it.
It is worth-remembering that in 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) came up with this Declaration of Principles: Building the Information Society, which sets the philosophical and ethical foundations for the global users of the information technology, that:
- The Information Society should respect peace and uphold the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, shared responsibility, and respect for nature.
- We acknowledge the importance of ethics for the Information Society, which should foster justice, and the dignity and worth of the human person. Emphasis on the role of family in society.
- The use of ICTs and content creation should respect human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, including personal privacy, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
- All actors in the Information Society should take appropriate actions and preventive measures, as determined by law, against abusive uses of ICTs.
I also took this opportunity to remind the audience of the Prophet Muhammad-guided information governance that has been taught as a legacy to us:
- Info Dissemination: The prophet PBUH emphasised on accuracy and clarity
- Info Gathering: He assigned specialist to gather espionage
- Info Management: He appointed secretaries among the trusted and skilled companions
- Info Confidentiality: He classified info on warfare, critical project e.g. Hijra, names of munafiqun
- Respect to Privacy: He prohibited private surveillance
- Info Authenticity: He used a special seal for correspondence
- Info Verification: He always emphasised on the need of Tabayyun (i.e. verifying the source of information)
what to do when you suspect a fake news or hoax?
This chart from the Singapore’s National Library Board page may help.
(Excerpt from my keynote: “IR 4.0 and the Inflation of Information: Issues and Challenges”)