Tapping into race, religion to spark reactions

A falsehood that taps into issues such as race and religion can spark a strong, knee-jerk reaction from the group, said Assistant Professor Elmie Nekmat.
A falsehood that taps into issues such as race and religion can spark a strong, knee-jerk reaction from the group, said Assistant Professor Elmie Nekmat.PHOTO: GOV.SG

The ubiquitous halal logo was at the centre of a controversy in the Muslim community last month, when a photo showing an image of the logo next to a poster advertising pork belly rice spread online.

The photo appeared in a Facebook post last month which warned people in a mix of English and Malay "to be careful when you go to this place... There are several halal logos, but it also sells pork".

National University of Singapore Assistant Professor Elmie Nekmat, 36, recalled how the post caught the eye of some of his family members, who dismissed it as "fake news".

They were right.

The halal logo and the poster belonged to two adjacent stalls, which had put these up on different sides of a pillar. The halal logo was from halal-certified yong tau foo stall, Green Delights, while the poster was from a non-halal noodle stall.

Some tried to correct the misinformation online, but the damage was done - Green Delights saw a dip in business.

Dr Elmie, whose research areas include public opinion formation, said this shows how a falsehood that taps into issues such as race and religion can spark a strong, knee-jerk reaction from the group.

 

"If (it is) news that is very relatable in terms of how it is being framed when it comes to language and religion, we will take more notice of it," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

Like-minded groups are congregating on platforms like Facebook, he noted, urging group administrators to fact-check posts or set guidelines to verify information before posting.

Public hearings to fight online falsehoods: Read the submissions here and watch more videos.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'Tapping into race, religion to spark reactions'. Print Edition | Subscribe