Provide An Official ‘Go-To-Place’ To Curb The Spread Of Fake News And It’s Damaging Effect On Small Businesses

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Press Statement By Julian Tan:

The only way proven to combat fake news related to covid-19 that can severely affect local businesses is to provide an official ‘go-to place’ that the public can easily access updated information on locations affected without disclosing confidential information on individual effected.  Even vague and ‘half-bake’ information can be equally damaging or worse, as it can quickly get twisted and spreads at speed, making it more difficult for the public to identify verified facts & advice from trusted sources.

An official ‘go-to place’ place will not just gain people confident over time as a trusted source of information; the government can also control how the information can be better positioned as not to raise an unwarranted response. In Singapore, the ministry update information on the locations and times that infectious COVID-19 patients have visited for at least 30mins. This is proven to be effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and fake news. The full list of locations and times can be found on the official government website.  Thus, the Ministry of Health (MOH) excuse for not stigmatizing businesses is not founded. On the contrary, by not providing an official go-to place for people to obtain reliable information, we allow speculations and false information to circulate wildly, and businesses suffer. Past few days, we have seen the need of business owners to clarify fake news circulating that COVID-19 patients visited the premises.

These is exactly what happened at the once a tourist hot-spot, Carpenter street. A recent spread of vague information regarding an infected COVID-19 patient quickly spread and turns into fake news and provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviors against people who perceived to have been in contact with the virus. A visit on the ground confirmed the damaging effect of fake news on businesses at Carpenter street. Most business owners already struggle to meet ends meet because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, it is imperative for the government to be ahead of the game continuously. The disclosing of information on locations affected via an official channel able to empower the public to take precautions and at the same time curb the spread of fake news that harms individuals and businesses. People can also be confident that the once affected places were now sanitized and safe to go so businesses can be back to normal quickly. All this information should be available at the touch of our fingertips.

26.10.2020
Julian Tan
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen