Online rumours spread when there is a lack of information

Yesterday at Parliament, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that some mischievous individuals were spreading rumours and cause unnecessary anxiety during the recent haze. He went on to ask if the online community were helping to clarify and reject online rumours, or were they helping to spread them or even create them?

“When public anxiety was highest during the days when the haze was at its worst, where were these prominent members of the online community who believed that the Internet should be left alone? Were they helping to clarify and reject online rumours, or were they helping to spread them or even create them?”

You see, as a responsible member of the online community, I wanted to help during the haze period. But there is a serious lack of information coming from the Government. Up till now, the Government still refuse to engage prominent bloggers and include them in the media briefing. How do you expect the online community to help when you don’t provide them with the necessary tools to help you?
Online rumours spread when there is a lack of information. Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, you need to understand that Singaporeans were told that there are 9 million N95 masks in stock on 20 June 2013, Thursday. When PSI hit 401 on Friday, everyone, include myself, were panicking and running around the island to look for N95 mask. It seems like the masks were out of stock islandwide. There is no information on where and when those 9 million masks will be released. I won’t blame Ravi Philemon for being misled by others and spreading the wrong information. There just isn’t enough information coming from the Government.
The online community tried our best to help with limited information and resource. Some bloggers went over to JB to buy N95 mask to distribute. Others use social media to spread information like stock level of N95 masks in store.
Yes, there are some mischievous individuals who spread rumours and caused unnecessary anxiety. But it is the Government that allowed these individuals to strike fear by not giving the public, media and bloggers enough information to combat those rumours. When it comes to crisis like these, we need to put aside our political views and work together for the good of Singapore. I hope Minister Yaacob Ibrahim and other Ministers will consider engaging bloggers during the next crisis.
Internet Code of Conduct is not the solution to this problem. Stricter regulation won’t kill the rumours. It only make the public feel that the Government is hiding something from the public. Combat rumours with information. Engage the bloggers. Arm them with information so that they can help you clarify and reject online rumours. The online community is more than willing to help during time of crisis.

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