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Info minister warns of dangers of ‘fake news’

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A man browses social media on a laptop at a café in central Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon. Pha Lina

Info minister warns of dangers of ‘fake news’

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, at a roundtable hosted by the Club of Cambodian Journalists yesterday, urged netizens to watch what they repeat, lest they contribute to the circulation of inaccurate information on social media.

Kanharith maintained that most Facebook users simply read and share articles they like without checking their legitimacy. He gave as an example, a widely shared story about a young boy who drowned in Battambang.

An article circulated on Facebook claimed a doctor refused to treat the boy, when in reality the doctor simply wasn’t at the clinic. “We have to set a code of ethics . . . and a norm for Facebook users,” he said.

The ability to identify reliable sources of information has become an international issue, said Rene Gradwohl, a representative from Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. A report released last week by Stanford University found two-thirds of American teenagers could not identify credible news stories.

“Media literacy should be disseminated in schools,” he said. In response to growing criticism, which emerged after so-called “fake news” became a phenomenon in the recent US presidential elections, Facebook itself released a statement last month pledging to do more to combat misinformation.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said misleading news “is a concern”, but also warned against trying to “restrict the freedom of social media”. “Journalists should take the lead in preventing false information from circulating.”

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