Self-censorship is a must, say media experts - The Mole

Email interview with The Mole. Story by Amira Nutfah.
KUALA LUMPUR – Feb 20, 2016: Netizens are urged to use the Internet responsibly, now that Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media avenues are playing an increasingly prominent role in communication.
Media experts who talked to The Mole stressed that netizens must practice self-censorship to avoid the unsuspected repercussions that irresponsible posting and sharing would cost to the general populace.
Earlier, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak in a blog posting advised Internet users to authenticate news shared over social media news feeds.
He wrote that careless postings can create unnecessary confusion, panic, and fear, while in some cases, would lead to online scams.
“In conclusion, don’t blindly click, like and share things that you see on your newsfeed, without fully understanding the details behind the headlines or the truth about the story,” he wrote.
Journalism and media warfare expert Professor Dr Mokhtar Muhammad of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) explained that people ignored the move to “verify before sharing” as they are fixated to need of fast and speedy information.
Mokhtar said, it has appeared to be a trend where most netizens, afraid of being labelled as “outdated and unknowledgeable” would simply forwarded the messages they get.
He added, some also shared an information or false alert out of fear, particularly when a terrifying incidence occurred around them.
“If we were to be in such pressing situation, most of us would feel the urgency to inform others and have little time to verify the messages,” he added.
The media expert added that self-censorship can be exercised individually by stopping the act of sharing unverified information.
“The big idea is to put ourselves in the shoes of the people that would be affected. If possible, contact the authorities if the messages involved the government and ask them for clarification,” he added.
Advertising and media warfare expert Associate Professor Dr Adnan Hashim of UiTM pointed out that the circulation of fabricated or false information especially targeting national leaders should be stopped.
In addition, Adnan urged netizens to double check any information as to avoid defaming or tarnishing the profile of anyone.
“When we finally found out that a forwarded posting is unauthentic, it would be too late. There are always implications on doing or sharing. Most of the time, the effects can be serious once it involve political leaders or public figures,” he added.
The media expert however stressed that all in all, self-censorship should be backed with good parenting and education, that good values learnt will help safeguard one’s action.
“Young people are spending more time on social media compared to anything else. For the more reason, they have to exercise the values learnt. This is sometimes common sense. If you don’t know the full truth of something, then don’t share it,” he added.
Social media expert Shahnon Mohamed Salleh of the Centre of Media and Information Warfare Studies, UiTM opined that being responsible online requires one to evaluate the “detrimental effects” of an information.
Shahnon said, “freedom of expression” is indeed an indisputable saying, but netizens often neglected that such right entails bigger responsibility.
He added, the underlying factor is that the netizens appear to be easily deceived into believing that the messages or postings are interesting and worth sharing, without knowing the accuracy.
“Past study had shown that for about 70 to 75 per cent of viral contents shared online including through Whatsapp is actually false news, but many believed them. 
“This ‘herd mentality’ is nothing new, but with social media, everything is documented, hence it’s easy for all to see,” he added. 
Shahnon also suggested the government to come up with a monitoring system engaged with social media to eliminate malicious postings that would endanger public order and security.
He said, the authority must remind the public that legal action is only used as a last resort and serve as a deterrent to the public. 
He added, the online community can also help by establishing creative measure, like a “fact checker” page that act as a group to help in securing verification of a posting.