facebookSpreading Fake News Can Cost You Up To $100,000 and Incurs Cost on The Economy
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Spreading Fake News Can Cost You Up To $100,000 and Incurs Cost on The Economy

profileMing Feng

With Circuit Breaker, I find myself having more conversations with my father over dinner.

Just a few nights ago, our dinner topic revolves around a Facebook post that was widely shared in his Whatsapp Chat.

The post is a slideshow video which briefly talked about COVID-19 being a bioweapon to attack the world under the command of a Chinese female general. Ironically, there is a watermark on the video that says 世界新闻 (World News in Mandarin).

Source: Facebook

Search for that on Facebook, and you will be a list of Pages claiming themselves to be World News.

Source: giphy

Since the start of Circuit Breaker, these “fake news” circulating in my Father’s Whatsapp groups encouraged the family to have an insightful chat about how we can better identify the credibility of any piece of news.

In a big picture, our time educating our parents to identify fake news is not the only cost of it.

Fake news costs our economy more than we think.


Examples of Fake News Circulating in Singapore

Since COVID-19, we see the impact of how vulnerable the population is when it comes to fake news.

Here are some examples:

On 15 February 2020, a rumour was being circulated on social media about limited stocks of face masks being made available only at specific times at NTUC.

Source: Facebook | NTUC FairPrice

This, in turn, resulted in a wave of panic buy for face masks.

Source: tnp.sg

Not to mention a second wave of fake news on toilet paper shortage that rid half the population of any chance of getting a clean bottom for a month.


How One Share Can Lead To A Network of Fake news?

Assuming WhatsApp as a medium for publicity of a piece of fake news.

Majority of group chat has an average of nine members, hence creating nine impressions.

If in the next five minutes, two members decide to share it with another WhatsApp group that they are in.

In a span of 15 minutes, you would have created 64 impressions on the fake news, enough to form a long queue at an NTUC outlet.

This is just WhatsApp alone. We have yet to cover social media platforms such as Facebook where the majority has way more than nine followings.


Sharing One Fake News Can Cost Singaporeans Up to $100,000

Ever wondered how much does sharing each piece of fake news cost?

Fine and Jail Term under POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)

If found guilty of spreading falsehoods, the penalties for an individual are

  • Fine of up to $50,000
  • and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years

If found guilty of spreading falsehoods using a fake online account or bot, the penalties are

  • Fine of up to $100,000
  • and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years
  • For non-individuals, a fine of up to $1 million will be imposed

Social Cost of Fake News

Fake news can result in a string of inefficiencies in the economy.

Taking the fake news about groceries running out as an example, here are the costs incurred on an individual who bought into the news:

  • Time spent in the queue over unnecessary worry when it can be better spent elsewhere
  • Unnecessary mental stress and panic
  • Additional expenses on hoarding of groceries

The economy will also experience inefficiencies with shortage and food wastage when incidents as such happen.

In this case, groceries hoarder will end up hoarding too much groceries which they cannot possibly consume in time, while those who need basic groceries experience a shortage.

The excess hoarding of food can in-turn lead to wastage and ultimately, no one is better off.

False information can also lead to unwanted tension and inconvenience amongst family members when a believer of fake news alter his way of life.

Here are some examples of the cure for COVID-19, debunked:

Source: factcheck.afp.com

To make things worse, when taken seriously, false information can also lead to health issues and even death.

Source: whdh.com

Why Some Generations Are More Likely to be Victims of Fake News?

Before we go all rude and critical with our “OK BOOMER” comments, it is important to understand why certain generations are more incline to cause the spread of false information.

Source: giphy

Identifying false information and fake news requires a certain set of knowledge and comes with experience.

Source: gov.sg

To be able to identify how credible a piece of news is, you need to be able to

  • Identify if a certain website or Facebook page is established
  • Have a certain understanding behind the piece of information you received and do your own research by cross-referencing to other reliable sources
  • Have certain knowledge on the topic which the piece of information is on
  • Recognise that anyone can attempt to create a “trustworthy” brand with the help of photo and video editing skills

This can be a steep learning curve for Singaporeans who only recently adopted the cutting edge of technology.

This means that a certain group of Singaporeans now finds themselves in an environment where

  • A whole lot more information with what seems like “reliable sources” online.
  • A lot of information that they have little prior knowledge of

Every Singaporean has a part to play in this when it comes to educating our loved ones or to ensure we check the credibility of the content that we are sharing.

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About Ming Feng
A stint in Bloomberg gifted me with a beer belly, which only grew larger when I moved on to become a Professional Trader. Now I turn caffeine into digestible finance-related content.
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