The way we receive news has changed from years ago. No longer do we have to wait for the morning paper or the scheduled news on television and radio channels to get updates about ongoing issues. Everything is instantaneous and made much simpler these days, thanks to social media. Anyone can scroll down Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or simply receive an alert from WhatsApp for their dose of breaking news.
These kinds of news, while eye-grabbing, are often short-lived. The ease with which one can spread information around also regularly results in misinformation, fake news and hoaxes. There is the term “anything for clout”, which stands true for a lot of what we see on social media. People are willing to create all sorts of content - be it fake, true, hurtful or otherwise, simply for attention and high audience engagement in an attempt to get followers. In other words, this is their shot at gaining internet fame.
Following the aftermath of a series of coordinated and fatal terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in April, all social media platforms were shut down so as to stop the spread of false information and to prevent worsening the situation. The Indian government also recently shut down Internet services in Kashmir after revoking Article 370 in the state. In both cases, the bans came about to prevent false information and speculations from circulating on the internet, which would result in mass panic.
Ipsos Global Advisor conducted a survey with a test group of 20,000 people across 27 countries to find out if blocking social media access during a crisis is acceptable to the general population at large. The results were mixed, with six out of ten global citizens (60%) saying that it is acceptable to temporarily cut off access to social media platforms during crisis or terrorist attacks. The Ipsos study further found that as many as 75% of Malaysians agreed to the temporary cut off of social media platforms, with India coming ahead of Malaysia at 88%.
Despite the strong support for this ban in times of crisis, only an average of half trust the national government to make the right decision on when to put the ban in place. Falling behind India and Saudi Arabia, Malaysians came in third when asked if they trust the government’s choice on the right time to shut down social media platforms.
In contrast, there are 62% citizens globally who disagree with the temporary cut off of social media, with more than half of Malaysians agreeing that people are able to identify real news and fake news.
Various factors affect the levels of trust social media users have in the news they see, with education levels being a significant reason. The Ipsos study found that countries with higher levels of education are much less supportive of a social media ban. Overall, most citizens are in agreement that there are a number of ways to bypass social media bans, rendering the effort ineffective.
Do you think banning social media in times of crisis is an effective measure?
By: Celestine Foo