Yesterday, an anti-fake news bill was tabled in the Malaysian Parliament.
Fake news are now defined as "inaccurate news" which are "any kind of news, information, data and reports published which, in part or whole and in whatever form including write-ups and visual or audio recordings are false.
This presents a very interesting philosophical issue for us to try to resolve - what is truth?
Wise men throughout the last few thousands of years had tried to find out what is the truth and no one has the one and right answer.
Fake news as inaccurate news is a double-edged sword for the legislator.
The government has never been known to be accurate in the information that it presents to the general public, ostensibly to maintain "public calm" in times of unsettling emotions. More realistically, the government is also composed of ordinary people who have the difficult jobs of having to have a complete picture of the national situation as well as having to forecast the future when managing national economic and financial affairs.
Will the government be charged with fake news if its economic forecast for next year turned out not to be precisely on the dot?
The whole exercise of establishing the truth has drawn upon much of the best resources of any nation. This is where the modern institutional triangulation of the legislative, executive and judicial is laid out in order to ensure that what we have is not further from the truth even if it is not the truth.
Truth as conceived by the anti-fake news act is a point of truth and not a range or an idea of truth.
It is very difficult to have a point hit on anything. This is why when surgeons operate on the tumour in the brain, you either leave some of the tumour in in order not to cut away some part of the brain (Type I error in statistics) or you cut away some bit of the good brain in order to not leave any bit of the tumour around (Type II error).
The implementation of the anti-fake news act, if it is passed in parliament, is likely to commit the sins of Type II error, whereby those who are innocent are also charged in the hope that the fear will scare people from writing anything at all, be it accurate or not. This Type II error has been seen in the implementation of the GST when GST amount are imputed for retailers when there is no information to prove things one way or the other.
It is not inaccuracy that the act will the fighting - it will be ignorance that will be punished and at the same time fostered.
Now, for the poor bloggers who are writing opinions of which much of them are sentiment rather than facts. They could be charged for having aroused the wrong sentiment, or should we now say inaccurate sentiment.
In a world where ignorance casts its cloud upon the whole humanity, the chase for accuracy is as good as the reference of the judge of the accuracy.
As an afterthought, accuracy can be accuracy of the truth and of the falsehood. Accuracy does not necessarily equate with truth. A perfect fake painting is an accurate reproduction of the real painting; the only issue is the claim to authenticity.