I’ve seen plenty of parody Twitter accounts surface online, making me laugh or making me do a double take. It’s the latter that is often dangerous, especially if we don’t bother to fact check or look into it if the account was a parody account.
Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek says agencies or individuals that have been affected by parody or fake accounts can take civil action against the account holders. He also said that there are other laws in the country that could be applied to deal with those who misuse the technology.
This was mentioned by the Chairman after a local Twitter account was suspended on the platform for parodying the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM). Not only did the account itself have tweets that included hate speech towards religion, but it’s account name and image were remarkably similar to the official account.
Besides the parody JAKIM account, he cited ‘Bermana‘, which parodies the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama). Unlike MyJAKlM, Bermana is still up—with 24.8K followers, posting parodies of local news pieces almost every day.
“Those abroad are difficult to eliminate, but for individuals in the country, we are trying to use the approach of making our citizens to be morally conscious, that is, they can say what they like, but do not cheat. Freedom of speech, but not freedom to lie,” said the Chairman.
To make sure you get the correct news source, check the names of the accounts and read their bio. Trusted sources like Bernama also have the blue verified check-mark next to their names, but blue check-marks don’t nessecarily mean that they’re not parody accounts. One of the most popular news parody accounts “The Onion” has a blue check-mark.
It’s not just Twitter—Facebook has parody accounts including SMRT Feedback, where various Singaporean commuters mistook them for an actual complaint platform. The page was also used to expose frauds and other racist and bigoted individuals before they called it quits in July of this year.
While there might seem to be a fine line between parody accounts that are okay and not okay, the ones that aren’t parodying a specific company or individual are still going strong. These ones—besides The Onion—include The Tapir Times.
“The public is advised to be cautious with the existence of such fake accounts and report it to the authorities for further action,” said the MCMC.