Thursday, 8 December 2011

The spreader of false news

In the days before there were social networking websites, dubious and misleading news tend to make their way across cyberspace via forwarded emails. Usually such news sound sensational in the first instance and carry some form of warning or community advice. The forwarders of such emails normally do not care to check the authenticity of the piece being passed on, preferring to resort to the maxim of `better safe than sorry' or `no harm to let others know'. It is as if by forwarding the news gives them this `feel-good' feeling of having done a great service to society.

Unfortunately, quite a number of such forwarded news are plain false, misleading and in some cases, carry ill-intent. The Malay word that applies to this situation is `fitnah'.

An example of such an erroneous email is the one I received in June 2009 about the so-called humiliation that Apple is bringing to the religion of Islam by opening a bar in New York resembling the holy Kaabah in Makkah. A simple google search on `Apple Mecca Bar' will yield the true story. The perpetrator of this piece is not a dumb fellow. He was banking on the emotions and naivety of a section of cyberspace citizens by touching on the sensitive subject of religion. The people who blindly forwarded his message are the dumb ones.

I replied to the person who sent me the mail, saying that the story is a hoax and to check the truth before forwarding. She still forwards me similar stuff, although not as often as before... probably because such news have found a new medium of transmission. Facebook.

Last week, I spotted a niece of mine posting a link from her friend's wall, warning readers not to partake drinks from a certain manufacturer. The message goes like this :

Untk beberape hari akn dtg,jgn ambil mnuman dr mana2 produk dr syarikat PEPSI spt pepsi,tropicana juice,slice,7up,coca cola dll kerana ada pekerja dr syarikat itu tlh menambah darahnya yg trcemar dgn HIV.Keluar berita dlm NTV7.Tlg sebarkn kpd org yg anda sygi.

I immediately posted a comment to my niece, asking if this is true. For starters, Pepsi and Coca-cola are 2 different companies. She then posted a similar query on her friend's link. The reply from the friend was a nonchalant, `Better xpayah minumla.. Lgkh brjaga2..'. So disappointing.

Since there was mention of NTV7 in the message, I sent an email to them asking about it. The television station replied that they had never broadcasted such news. And as if on cue, the very next day The Star Online carried an article quoting the response from Pepsi, saying that it was a hoax. The story originated as an sms in India since July this year. The full news article can be read here -> Rumours of HIV-infected drinks untrue, says Pepsi. This same link was given to my niece, who then extended it to her friend. I had a peek at this person's wall to see what her response was. Sadly... nothing. The least she could have done is to say sorry for perpetuating the lie.

I guess the spread of such khabar angin will not end any time soon, if at all. Information nowadays, travel at the speed of light. And we will continue to have ignorant and arrogant people who think they have done a good thing by being the spreader of false news.


Anonymous said...

Oldstock, terkadang i wonder if our education system somehow melahirkan this group of people. i feel it's not right to not investigate and to not correct the untruths.

aside, where i come from, investigative journalism seems to be discouraged oleh pemegang kuasa. maybe satu lagi sebab.

my shallow thoughts :)

Sir Pök Déng said...

Setiap kilang makanan/minuman mesti ada sijil HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point). Sijil HACCP memerlukan kilang minuman mempunyai sistem penyahkuman yang dipanggil pasteurization. Kalau tak buat pasteurization, maka sijil HACCP tak boleh dikeluarkan. Oleh itu, kilang tersebut tidak boleh berniaga. Kaedah pasteurization ni, kaedah bunuh segala kuman menggunakan pendekatan suhu: sekejap minuman tersebut akan melalui suhu panas gila, kemudian tiba-tiba disejukkan ke suhu rendah gila. Segala kuman akan mati.

KeDUA, virus memerlukan living organism untuk hidup dan membiak. Ini fakta sains. Oleh sebab itu, seorang saintis akan memerlukan seekor tikus untuk membiakkan certain virus. Sekiranya tidak mahu menggunakan tikus, mereka menggunakan cell culture (kultur sel) yang mempunyai sel-sel hidup mirip organisma hidup.

Virus juga boleh attack bakteria. Kerana bakteria juga benda hidup.

Persoalannya, ada tak bakteria dalam minuman yang sudah melalui proses pasteurization?

Masuk neraka lah kaki buat fitnah tu.

And one more thing Uncle Old Stock, have you ever watched a youtube video showing pork, after soaked with Coca Cola, worms come out of the meat. And Muslims, I mean, BLOODY STUPID MUSLIMS, start saying "Na'uzubillah... Allahuakbar!! Itulah sebabnya Allah mengharamkan umat Islam makan khinzir!"

It's not that reason that we Muslims are prohibited to eat pork. It's another reason.

I'm a scientist.

Iskandar aka DR Bubbles said...

Not so long ago, they spread false news on FB wrt Halal status of Starbucks. When I told them that it wasn't true, they said, "Tak apa, Starbucks sokong Yahudi!" Penatlah melayan emel sebegini. The other day, it was on Ramly Burger pula, siap ada surat Jabatan Kesihatan lagi. Lagilah penat!

VersedAnggerik said...

I usually delete this kinda of mail after reading. Bukan apa, simpan pun tak guna, apa lagi nak forward2 benda yg kita pun tak tahu apa puncanya.

Oldstock said...

Sdra Noir,

Perhaps its our education system but maybe more of parental upbringing. Among the very basic of traits that parents should inculcate in their children is not to tell lies and not to spread other people's lies too.

Oldstock said...

Sir Pok Deng,

Thank you for sharing that useful information about food processes. As you said, we have procedures and regulations to control manufacturing processes in our country. We have to trust the authorities in doing their jobs. If we think that there is something amiss, then it is the authorities that we should refer to. Bukan sendiri nak memandai-mandai kata yang itu tak boleh dan yang ini haram.

By coincidence, after I had posted this, I saw another friend posting in her FB about a huge list of things that are haram to eat or wear, based from some unspecified study by local university graduates. The claims are so dubious and illogical. Among the items mentioned is maggi mee and sabun buku Fab! I'm shaking my head in disbelief.

The sad thing is that the friend who posted the link is a very educated person. Even sadder still, other educated friends are picking up the link and propagating it.

About the pork and cola video... yes I've seen it. What to say, orang kita memang mudah overexcited bila lihat perkara sebegitu.

Oldstock said...

Dr Bubbles,

Your comment reminds me of this one time when I responded to such an email (dah tak ingat pasal apa) by replying to the sender plus cc copy to all the previous other recipients and forwarders. One of the forwarder was unhappy and replied back to me, saying that I was doing a disservice by not following sunnah Rasul... I didn't want to waste my time by prolonging the discussion.

I also remember receiving an email about ayam yg dijual di KFC tu tak halal. Nak tahu sebab apa? Sebab ada seorang hamba Allah ni pegi survey kat tempat ayam tu disembelih time waktu suboh. Dia perhati yg tukang sembelih tu tak solat suboh, jadi kira mcm orang fasik la si penyembelih tu.... so kira ayam yg disembelih tu tidak halal. Aduh.... you can see just how smart some people are...

Oldstock said...


I'm the opposite of you in this case. I created a separate folder to keep such hoax emails.... because I can refer later on, who actually sent it to me.

Sir Pök Déng said...

"By coincidence, after I had posted this, I saw another friend posting in her FB about a huge list of things that are haram to eat or wear, based from some unspecified study by local university graduates. The claims are so dubious and illogical. Among the items mentioned is maggi mee and sabun buku Fab! I'm shaking my head in disbelief."

AND, by coincidence too, I am about to carry out molecular biology tests (DNA and stuff like that) on those controversial products (I am focusing on food products). If God wills, Jakim will consult us (and me) for that kind of stuff. Mind listing the products here, Uncle Oldstock?

Sabun Fab? Haha! Yes it might sound dumb, but it might be true as well. Current technology on sabun basuh has been established a few years ago. They added special enzyme into their products in order to produce ones which can eliminate bau hapak from clothes. By saying enzyme, here's a concept:

First of all, enzyme is a type of protein. In all living cells (our body cells too!), to produce proteins, our DNA will first give birth to a baby called mRNA. The small letter "m" means "messenger". This mRNA brings message to the protein producing system so that the system will produce protein. If the message tells, "this is an enzyme to get rid of musty odor from clothes", the system will produce it.

Hence, here's the simplified form of the story above:
DNA --> mRNA --> Protein

In our case:
DNA-buang-bau-hapak --> mRNA-containing-message-to-buangbauhapak --> protein/enzyme-that-works-to-buang-bau-hapak

In commercial production of that "buang-bau-hapak-enzyme", it is hard to isolate the enzymes itself. Scientists need to take it's mother: the DNA! When they have the mother, they can produce many babies (mRNA), hence the enzyme too will be produced in multiple fold.

Now here comes the interesting part. Where was the origin of the buang-bau-hapak-DNA? Pigs maybe?

JohorMali said...

Mr Oldstock,
I remember a few years ago some friends posted about how goreng pisang traders threw in plastic bottles in the hot oil so as to make the goreng pisang very rangup.
I dismissed my friends by asking them to spare a thought to the innocent goreng pisang traders. I am not easily gullible because my missus and I frequently make rangup goreng pisang sans the plastic bottles.
Such is the state of technology these days that you can either become a monkey or a new Einstein!

Oldstock said...

Pok Deng,

Thank you again for that input enzymes. If indeed the smell-prevention DNA is porcine in origin, then perhaps all soaps should be investigated, rather than just naming Fab alone. Good work you are doing there. Keep us posted on the findings, will you?

I'll send you that list by way of email. You'll be surprised by the scale of the claims. But even if some of them were true, the approach is all wrong.

BTW, you doing all this research stuff out there in the quiet east coast?

Sir Pök Déng said...

Well, that was just my speculation. A lot of parameters need to be taken into consideration before coming out with a conclusion.

Sometimes, Muslims nowadays are too paranoid. Selipar Crocs ada kalimah Allah pada tapaknya lah, Barbican haram sebab alcohol content 0.5% (well, air nira nipah & tapai pulut should be haram too!), and many more.

I understand what you meant by "the approach is all wrong". I am in your boat.

I'm doing all this research stuff in Shah Alam. :)

Al-Manar said...

Until you raised this point I had never thought twice about such emails I received. And I never saw it necessary to forward them to any one.

However it this is becoming a real issue I wonder if the authority should establish a focal point for forwarding all such 'rumours' to be checked and findings made public.

Oldstock said...

Sdra JohorMali,

I wish those who forward such news can take your point.... have a thought for those whose livelihood may be affected by the spread of lies.

On this subject of goreng pisang rangup, just to let you know that the best goreng pisang I have ever tasted was sold by a stall in Kg Melayu Majidee, many eons ago. We called it goreng pisang Mat Sengau, because the guy who does the frying has a cleft lip. Sadly, the stall is no more...

Oldstock said...

Salam Pakcik,

There have been quite a number of such rumours flying around, especially those relating to the halalness of food. I've seen Jakim issuing statements to deny some of them.

My point to all this is really quite simple.... just do a check on the story before forwarding or broadcasting it. How I wish more of our people can be a bit more mature and intelligent.

STEEST said...

Dropping by to say hello. I've been lazy to browse blogs. Well, busy is a better word.

Hopefully this situation will soon change and I can catch up with the blogs that I enjoy.

Happy December 2011.

Nurie said...

Very interesting post here oldstock!
Mmg tak tahan bila dapat forwarded email yg tak masuk akal esp from our friends yang educated and holding managerial post in the office. Email like "please forward this email from Apple to 10 people and you will get an Ipad or Iphone" is just ridiculous! Paling tak tahan when friends commented,'mana la tahu boleh dapat Ipad" when they forwarded it to their friends. Sigh......

Oldstock said...

Oops sorry Lita, I seem to have missed your comment. Don't be too busy, although I know Christmas is coming soon.

Oldstock said...


That sort of hoax email actually tests who among your friends are smart and who are extremely gullible. Just goes to show, a higher education certificate does not guarantee that the holder is intelligent.