The Wuhan coronovirus outbreak is certainly causing panic, with 7 cases already reported in Malaysia. However, certain parties are actually fanning the flames with the spreading of fake news. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and Royal Malaysian Police have already issued a warning that the offence of spreading fake news and rumours on the Wuhan virus could lead to potential RM100,000 fines, with news surfacing that at least one arrest has already been made in Malaysia.
Now, Malaysian actor Zed Zaidi has been seen propagating some fake news on the local authorities’ handling of the Wuhan virus situation. The actor complained that it isn’t safe to be in Malaysia right now, and people are forced to cover their mouths and noses (with masks) 24 hours a day. Rather provocatively, Zaidi also attached two images to the Tweet—one of which has a fake message overlayed, stating:
“ALL COUNTRIES HAS BANNED CHINESE TOURISTS EXCEPT MALAYSIA.”
While Malaysia has indeed temporarily barred entry for residents of Wuhan from attaining visas to enter the country, the message is still clearly fake. There is a watermark near the top-right of the picture, which shows that the image has been created using breakyourownnews.com—a site that’s used to create fun memes.
But in a situation such as the current one, the image has stoked fires among netizens, with the actor drawing a fair amount of flak on Twitter. Here’s a look at some notable replies:
Zaidi has said since that he is fully aware that the image does indeed contain misinformation, saying that there is “no way” that he didn’t know it was false. The actor explains that the entire point of the Tweet was to show that he was wearing a mask. However, Zaidi has—thus far—not taken the Tweet down, which is perhaps indicative of a his mindset towards the situation.
Regardless, Malaysian health professionals have already issued a statement calling for Malaysians to have a calm and sensible response to the situation, while the spreading of fake news has certainly been condemned by multiple parties.
As it stands, a good SOP for Wuhan virus news (and general news, to be fair) is to only share something that you know to be authentic.