Who Gets To Decide the Truth?
Sun Lee

16 April 2018

It isn't just the United States that is preoccupied with the threat of fake news. In Malaysia, a bill outlawing fake news just passed. The new law could mean jail time for those who not only create but also spread misleading information.

Meanwhile, what exactly qualifies as "fake news" remains unclear in the bill. The legislation raises the question: who gets to declare what is true, and conversely, what is false? The ambiguity behind how fake news is determined leaves open the possibility that the government will unjustly censor speech in the name of banning fake news.

Read more about Malaysia's bill against fake news here:





Comments (2)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, April 16, 2018 -- 11:02 AM

Fake news in Malaysia. Hmmm.

Fake news in Malaysia. Hmmm. Free speech may matter less there? I'll deliver a parable, of sorts, attempting to illustrate why such an action might not bode well for our form of democracy:

[In one of my own essays, I argued with myself about whether Philosophy was of any practical use in this world. In that personal confrontation, it was necessary to revisit the European Enlightenment (circa 16th century) and some of the eminent thinkers of that period. Through a bit of investigation, it was affirmed that old world fops and gadflies had a pronounced influence upon the US' founding fathers, and some mothers. Turns out that the emergent governmental structure had more than a little in common with the thinking and ideas of some fops and gadflies. I lost my own original argument. Philosophy augments our ability to think, either directly or indirectly.]

Therefore, if you are among the many who think of Philosophy as useless, pedantic puffery, let me suggest you re-read some historical documents. The Declaration of Independence is a good one, as is the US Constitution. Possibly, even the Federalist Papers. Take your time. You may change your mind.

Now, depending on who you believe, there has always been fake news. The Church treated science and astronomy as fake news when they failed to tow the ecclesiastical line. The penalties for such 'fake' news could be severe, but, at the time, the Church was unassailable; treated as an infallible force, making it a powerful adversary. I don't know if Malaysia really wants to 'go there'. Yet, perhaps that IS EXACTLY the place to which their rulers want to return. Even here, in the enlightened West, we still have flat-earthers. I don't think we throw them in jail for that...we certainly would not want to enact a law prohibiting flat-earth beliefs---would we?

Dr B's picture

Dr B

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 -- 5:24 AM

Very well put! Here in the U

Very well put! Here in the U.K. we have a huge stramash taking place regarding Brexit (the people of the U.K. having decided to leave the EU.). Now, in the run up to the referendum in 2016, the government published so called facts, data, opinions, astrological forecasts .... all renamed as Project Fear trying to persuade us all that if we voted to Leave this would result in an emmediate collapse of the U.K. economy, WW3, the apocalypse...... and worse. It didn’t happen! Now, we have the BBC churning out statistics and opinions from groups, researchers, and individuals who just can’t accept the democratic vote, showing forecasts of Armageddon and being selective in their reporting when the PM farts instead of reporting increased GDP, lowering of inflation, increased employment, etc etc. Is this fake news?