“I know it’s fake but I still choose to share “

Just imagine if we are all able to differentiate what is ‘fake’ news or news items that may not be as reliable.

Imagine if every content that we consume have gone through this invisible filter that sifts and segregates what is real and what is fake.

On March 14 2017, the New Straits Times (NST) reported that the Communications Ministry launched a new portal, sebenarnya.my to quash all sorts of fake news.

It is a portal where the public will be able to verify the authenticity of news items they received, either through social media, SMS, blogs, or websites.

It has been subsequently reported in the NST on August 15 2017 that 227 cases involving the misuse of new media, including social media, websites, and blogs have been investigated from January 2016 to July 2017.

“Action has been taken against 75% out of 2,000 fake accounts, including blocking and closing them while the rest are still being investigated,” said Dato’ Sri Jailani Johari, the previous Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia; a response to a question from Senator Datuk Zali Mat Yasin.

In March 2018, then Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said, analysis conducted by the Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), showed the majority of Malaysians get fake or unverified news via WhatsApp (84%), Facebook (8%), …

This issue of ‘fake’, ‘falsified’ or ‘unverified’ news and content is not something that will go away anytime soon. This is due to many trending factors present within the existing and thriving information ecosystem.

With the dominance of digital platforms and mobile, it has become easier and faster to disseminate information with a click of a button. On many occasions, news or content items are forwarded or shared without any verification or validation.

While the Anti-Fake News Act and MCMC’s sebenarnya.my portal have been implemented, the current model operates primarily as a passive model with  a post-verification approach.

This however does not completely reduce or remove the issues and problems on the distribution of fake content.

Just ask anyone within your circle of friends; how many of them actually do verification prior to sending or forwarding content that they have consumed on their mobile device or web.

The current model, while acting on a deterrent methodology, still allow these problems to exists.

With the ease of receiving and sending of news and content, the level of ‘trust’ – both official and unofficial news – content continue to erode.

In a recent finding from Statisca 2018, the overall level of trust in media in Malaysia is still on a decline, from almost 60% in 2016 to below 50% in 2018.

The question is, how to best address these issues?

How can this growing concern and threat be reduced?

How can it be better managed or even eliminated?

The challenge is to establish a basis that ensures news can be managed, moderated, verified and authenticated from a holistic standpoint.

This requires the powers and cooperation of many minds and talents from a wide cross-section of parties.

Who is willing to undertake such a gargantuan task?

Is it worth the effort, time, and funding to eradicate ‘fake news’?

What if we are able to make it easier for every recipient of content or news to easily validate, verify, or even acknowledge the news items to be borderline, un-verified, and possibly even ‘fake’.

And should they share such content, they knowingly acknowledge their actions are risky…

The current IT/IS and Internet ecosystem allows for a viable solution to be created and adopted. All it takes is the right movement, the right people, and suitable resources to enable it.

And it is by no means a simple undertaking.

Let us speculate that one fine day, Malaysia decides to introduce a ‘Digital Content Accreditation & Validation (DCAV)’ system.

It would enable continuous and active validation of news and content, possibly even video and audio content. This would require the creation of a DCAV tag or key.

DCAV tags all forms of content and media, and like a license key, it resides in every news or content; both official and unofficial. This includes blogs, social platforms, and etc.

Each DCAV tag is multi-functional. It performs as both a validator and indicator. Through a comprehensive network of systems, it verifies, authenticates, and validates the content into a rating model.

These DCAV keys can be obtained openly from the DCAV Framework. Every key that is issued goes through an algorithm to validate and verify the legitimacy of the content.

In the DCAV blueprint framework, all sources of content passes through the system for active validation, a system that adheres to the following criteria:

– Situational Relevance

– Cognitive/Affective

– Information Use and other factors for validation

Within the DCAV algorithm, even a public review component could exist, enabling consumer reviews. Now imagine what additional data and analytics that would uncover.

The objective is to enable a system that drives towards ‘active validation’ rather than a passive post validation. However, like all systems or solution, it needs to be done in phases.

Additionally, such a solution should include official mainstream media and publishers. They too should be within the scope of DCAV.

This provides for active monitoring and tracking. In actual fact, this lends further credibility to them.

Imagine the value in data intelligence here enabling media publishers to acknowledge the level of trust and its reputation among their audiences.

Let us just speculate how a solution such as DCAV could be realised.

It would require the cooperation and implementation of a nationwide framework collaborating across all media platforms, all Internet content-based services, and an IT architecture integrating a multitude of systems.

Key authorities, from government to the private sector, will have to engage and come to an agreement when executing this masterplan.

Additionally, there will be a need to revisit certain legislation, especially in Security and Privacy Policies.

The final question that everyone needs to ask: does society really need such a colossal and complex system to manage a simple rudimentary problem?  

After all, it’s only to stop circulating fake and unverified news’.

Unfortunately, human nature and the maturity of audiences say otherwise.

Today, the click is king. With a simple gesture of pressing a share button, the ruthless cycle begins again.

So maybe such a behemoth solution is needed.

By Gary Tay

Digital Evangelist & CEO, Amphibia Digital

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