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Opinions were divided on the reliability of social media companies in regulating content and measures in place to ensure the veracity of information posted.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are in favour of banning the use of social media in times of crisis or terror attacks as a means to curb the spread of fake news.

A survey conducted by Ipsos Global Advisor saw Malaysia as the third highest-ranked country behind India and Saudi Arabia, which trusts its government to execute a blanket ban on social media.

‘Almost two-thirds of Malaysians (74 per cent) trust the government to decide when and if it’s appropriate to shut down social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news in times of crisis.

People around the world are divided on whether governments should shut down access to social media during a crisis,depending on whether they see the platforms as a valuable news source or a supplier of fake news.

‘Six in 10 global citizens opined that it is acceptable to temporarily cut off access to social media platforms during times of crisis and if there was a terror attack to prevent the spread of misinformation,’Ipsos said in a statement.

The survey, which was held a month after terror attacks in Sri Lanka in April, involved 20,000 respondents across 27 countries. It was done to find out if the general population was agreeable to the blocking of social media during a crisis.

Opinions were divided on the reliability of social media companies in regulating content and measures in place to ensure the veracity of information posted.

‘Globally, citizens are split when it comes to trusting social media platforms with 51 per cent of those polled not trusting social media companies to ensure factuality of content on their platform.

‘While the level of trust in social media platforms is highest in Russia (84 per cent), Peru (66 per cent) and China (64 per cent), countries like Great Britain (28 per cent), Canada (32 per cent), Sweden (34 per cent) and France (34 per cent) were least trusting of social media platforms with the content shared during a crisis.

‘(However only) 59 per cent of Malaysians agree that they trust social media companies to ensure that the content shared on their platforms during times of crisis is factual.’

On the other side of the spectrum, most of the respondents were against a blanket ban as social media is also used as a prime news source.

‘Comparable to the proportion of citizens who support social media bans, 62 per cent of global citizens agree that it is unacceptable to temporarily cut off social media during times of crisis because these platforms are a primary source of news and information for many people.

‘In fact, over half of Malaysians (54 per cent) agree that people are capable of separating fact from fiction, and would not support a temporary social media ban to stop the dissemination of fake news. Countries with higher levels of education are the least likely to think of social media as the most accurate and superior source of news and information.

‘As a consequence, global citizens with higher levels of education are significantly less supportive of a social media ban.’

Despite polling in favour of the ban, a majority of Malaysians believed it could be circumvented and ultimately questioned its effectiveness.

‘Overall, most of the respondents (71 per cent) felt that a temporary ban on social media by the government would not be an effective measure because there are ways to work around them.

‘More than two-thirds of Malaysians (69 per cent) feel that social media bans are futile as there are many ways to navigate around it. Some of the markets where the view is more pronounced are Turkey (81 per cent), Poland (80 per cent), Argentina (78 per cent), Peru (78 per cent), and Russia (78 per cent).’

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