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.