PETALING JAYA: Three out of four Malaysians or 75% support the idea of a social media ban during a crisis or a terrorist attack to prevent the flow of fake information, according to a global survey of 27 countries.

Malaysia was ranked second behind India (88%) in the survey conducted a month after the coordinated and fatal terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in April.

Other countries that were also in favour of a temporary ban on social media were Saudi Arabia (73%), China (72%) and Britain (69%).

Globally, the survey of nearly 20,000 people, by independent market research firm Ipsos, found that 60% favour a social media ban in the circumstances mentioned.

The survey also found that 74% of Malaysians 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.

Only India (80%) and Saudi Arabia (75%) were ranked higher in this aspect.

However, when the Malaysian respondents were asked if they agreed with the following statement (with the word “crisis” omitted): “I think that most people are capable of separating fact from fiction, so I would not support a temporary social media ban”, 54% said they agreed.

Almost two-thirds of Malaysians (69%) also think social media bans are futile as there are many ways to navigate around them.

The survey also found that 59% Malaysians agree that they trust social media companies to ensure that the content shared on their platforms during times of crisis is factual.

Globally, 51% of the citizens polled do not trust social media companies to ensure factuality of content on their platform.

“Today’s world is heavily reliant on social media for news and information. Social media has played a big role in the rise of fake news and spreading rumours,” said Arun Menon, managing director of Ipsos in Malaysia.

“Lack of accountability and absence of thorough measures by social media companies to weed out fake content will prompt the public to trust governments to step in with regulations,” he added.

The survey was conducted online between May 24 and June 7,2019, with approximately over 1,000 individuals participating on a country-by-country basis.

The Malaysian sample surveyed was considered to be more urban and educated with higher incomes than their fellow citizens, and were considered to be not nationally representative.

Recently, it has been quite common for fake news or fake information to spread through social media channels such as WhatsApp or Facebook, with some parties spreading misinformation that is racial in nature.

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