Education, laws and private-public partnerships necessary to counter fake news in Asean: Experts

Public-private sector partnerships, education and laws are needed to ensure people are able to discern fact from fiction, said panellists at a regional forum.
Public-private sector partnerships, education and laws are needed to ensure people are able to discern fact from fiction, said panellists at a regional forum.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There are vaccines against Covid-19 but one needs to be developed for the fake news contagion as well, said panellists at a regional forum.

With falsehoods related to Covid-19 and public health increasingly circulating on social media and the Internet, they added that the need is even more pressing now.

Speaking on Wednesday (Jan 20) at a forum organised by the Asean Secretariat and the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia, the three panellists spelt out some ingredients for a fake news "vaccine".

They said public-private sector partnerships, education and laws are needed to ensure people are able to discern fact from fiction.

Mr Donny Eryastha, director of public policy for TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, said the social media platform has partnered with Singapore's Media Literacy Council to start campaigns to highlight the dangers of disinformation and promote digital wellness.

He said the platform has teams of moderators to remove any content that goes against its community guideline, including fake news.

TikTok also has programmes to automatically remove such content when detected, added Mr Eryastha.

But it needs to partner more organisations to combat fake news.

"We need to work together. We need to work with governments, we need to work with external organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academia, in order to create a safe and positive Internet environment for everyone," he said.

To make it safe, laws against fake news are also needed, said director-general for Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications Trieu Minh Long.

He that Asean member states have all taken steps to put in place laws to protect their communities against fake news, but added that the regional group is also looking to implement projects that will focus on public education and communication.

This, he added, is especially important given the region's growing access to the Internet and digital media.

Miss Marites Vitug, editor-at-large for Philippine online news site Rappler, noted that Asean states have some of the most active users of the Internet.

People in the Philippines, for example, spend on average more than nine hours online a day. Those in Indonesia spend more than seven hours.

Both examples contrast sharply with the global average of less than three hours a day, said Miss Vitug.

Warning that falsehoods tend to cement people's biases, she called for schools and universities to partner media organisations and civil society groups to conduct media literacy campaigns.

Mr Trieu said more organisations need to work with schools to engage younger children on media literacy, and develop more materials for them.

He said: "They should be one of the priorities for us, because they can now have access to the Internet, and many of our children have accounts on social media very early (from) around 10 or 11 years old."