Barisan Nasional launches portal to combat 'fake news'

A performance during the launch of theRakyat.com, Barisan Nasional's online news portal to canvass for votes and to combat "fake news" on social media.
A performance during the launch of theRakyat.com, Barisan Nasional's online news portal to canvass for votes and to combat "fake news" on social media.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has launched an online news portal to canvass for votes and combat "fake news" on social media, ahead of the country's next general election which is expected within months.

Called theRakyat.com - rakyat means the people in Malay - the portal was launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak and other BN leaders on Wednesday.

Datuk Seri Najib said at the launch that social media had become the primary source of information for many people.

"In the 13th general election, we became the victim of fake news, although the term was not popular back then," he said.

"The reality is, fake news has become the opposition's weapon and has brought about consequences for us," Mr Najib, who is also BN chairman, said in his speech. "We believe the same thing will happen during the 14th general election.

"That is why we need a platform that can be used to connect, and to spread accurate and quick information to the people. In other words, (all) information in the portal must be authoritative."

BN, a 13-party coalition, still mainly uses mainstream media like television channels and newspapers to spread its message and information about events.

In contrast, the opposition parties, which are generally blocked from the mainstream media, have actively used online media and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread their views.

The new BN online tool will feature information on BN's candidates in the upcoming polls, officials say.

It contains several interactive segments and will also feature one-on-one interviews with BN leaders which will air on national television on alternate Wednesdays.

On theRakyat.com site yesterday was an interview with several village chiefs on what they want from their political representatives, and an interview with the chief of Tekun Nasional, an agency for Malay entrepreneurs.

The site also has picture galleries covering what Mr Najib has claimed as his government's successes - the MRT project, building affordable homes and the setting up of low-cost clinics to cater to the poor.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2018, with the headline 'Barisan Nasional launches portal to combat 'fake news''. Print Edition | Subscribe