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Communications of the ACM

East Asia and Oceania Region special section: Big trends

Detecting Fake News in Social Media: An Asia-Pacific Perspective

fakebook t-shirt, illustration

Credit: Guardian Liberty Voice

In March 2011, the catastrophic accident known as "The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster" took place, initiated by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The only nuclear accident to receive a Level-7 classification on the International Nuclear Event Scale since the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, the Fukushima event triggered global concerns and rumors regarding radiation leaks. Among the false rumors was an image, which had been described as a map of radioactive discharge emanating into the Pacific Ocean, as illustrated in the accompanying figure. In fact, this figure, depicting the wave height of the tsunami that followed, still to this date circulates on social media with the inaccurate description.

Social media is ideal for spreading rumors, because it lacks censorship. Confirmation bias and filter-bubble effects further amplify the spread of unconfirmed information. Upon public outcry, independent fact-checking organizations have emerged globally, and many platforms are making efforts to fight against fake news. For example, the state-run Factually website in Singapore has been known to clarify falsehoods since its inception in May 2012, which was followed recently by the implementation of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) in October 2019. In Taiwan, the government officially created a feature on the website of the Executive Yuan (the executive branch of Taiwan's government) to identify erroneous reporting and combat the spread of fake news. Taiwan's Open Culture Foundation has also developed and introduced the well-known anti-fake fact-checking chatbot Cofacts in May 2018. The Indonesia government since 2018 has held weekly briefings on hoax news; that same year, the country revised its Criminal Code to permit the imprisonment for up to six years of anyone spreading fake news. Governments in the Asia and Oceania region, including South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, have enacted relevant laws to prevent fake news from spreading.


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