NTU students launch anti-fake news campaign
Group hopes to educate S'poreans between 50 and 64 years old on fake news
Her family has never owned a microwave, believing such devices to be unsafe.
So when Miss Vernette Didier Chia, 23, used one for the first time two years ago, she put aluminium foil in, almost starting a fire.
"My mum reads fake articles forwarded to her, and one of them said that microwaves were unsafe," Ms Chia said. "There were no proper sources cited, but she took it as the gospel truth."
Fake news spread through group chats on WhatsApp may seem trivial, but have real repercussions for those who fail to do credibility checks.
In the case of the coronavirus, fake news about a "death" at a shopping mall and the "closure" of Woodlands MRT Station were debunked by the authorities after the false information spread through group chats and caused unfounded panic.
It is why several students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), including Miss Chia, have launched Sure Anot, an anti-fake news campaign targeting Singaporeans between the ages of 50 and 64.
Launched in December last year as part of their final-year project, it is spearheaded by Miss Chia, Miss Rachel Anne Chew, 23, Miss Kelley Lim, 23, and Miss Lee Yun Ting, 25.
The students, from NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, are running the campaign in collaboration with Black Dot Research, National Youth Council, RSVP Singapore The Organisation of Senior Volunteers, Courts, iStudio, Jurong Point and appliances company Mayer, with inputs from the Singapore Discovery Centre.
Sure Anot encourages older adults to perform a three-step routine each time they receive a news message on WhatsApp.
These steps include not forwarding messages immediately and checking the legitimacy of such messages.
At a visit to Changi Airport on Feb 2, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam praised the initiative by the students, citing it as an example of Singaporeans coming together in the face of adversity.
Mr Nicholas Fang, managing director of Black Dot Research, said the threat of fake news is set to become more insidious.
He said: "Sure Anot is a timely campaign that will contribute to important efforts to build a society of individuals that are not only educated about fake news, but also motivated to do their part in countering it."
Mr Ferdinand de Bakker, the NTU lecturer overseeing the project, said fake news about the coronavirus situation is a perfect example of how dangerous it can be.
"Elderly people, in particular women, have the tendency to spread fake news rapidly on WhatsApp groups," he said.
"When it spreads, people may end up doing things the Government is actively warning them against doing, and it may affect the well-being of others."
A campaign roadshow will be held outside Jurong Point from Feb 13 to 16, with a target of engaging 2,000 people.
Mr de Bakker said the campaign also aims to target a secondary audience consisting of the children of those aged 50 to 64.
"The idea is that maybe the primary target audience will listen to their sons and daughters," he said.
"Our students have done a lot of research prior to launching the campaign, and they bring a fresh perspective on how to tackle issues more effectively."