7 MCO initiatives clouded by misinformation, negative comments on social media

KUALA LUMPUR – A study on initiatives and topics Malaysians shared and conversed on social media during the first phase of Movement Control Order (MCO) has found that seven (7) out of a total of 23 initiatives announced by the Government were clouded by misinformation and negative comments. Information on 16 other initiatives were clear without any misinformation and negative comments.

The communications study, a collaborative effort conducted by Citrine One Sdn Bhd, an 18-year old home grown communications agency and SOCIO Intelligence Sdn Bhd, a social media intelligence and research agency was done to observe the communications effectiveness of major initiatives announced by the government since the first MCO from 16th of March until 31st of March. The conversations were categorised as high, medium and low according to the number of mentions on social media.

The study also revealed there was a high number of misinformation and negative comments that stemmed from the MCO Phase 1 announcement with 32%. The initiative which received the second highest percentage of mentions is the Economic Stimulus Package 2020, which gained 21% mentions on social media throughout the two weeks.

 Five other initiatives which received negative and dissatisfactory comments include COVID-19 outbreak additional initiative (17%) , Sanitization exercise (13%), MOH daily update press conference (8%), Bank Negara Moratorium Plan (5%) and 4 steps to strengthen the economic stimulus package (4%).

“Surprisingly, the lowest observed mentions were primarily on announcements made to manage COVID-19 including the additional budget of RM160 million to Ministry of Health (MOH), mobilizing of 1,000 housemen at government hospitals and callback of retired MOH medical staff to support the frontliners, which are considered more relevant and positive news,” noted Mr. Nicholas Khoo, Chief Executive Officer of SOCIO Intelligence Sdn Bhd.

High

(> 5,000 mentions)

Medium

(1,000-5,000 mentions)

Low

(< 1,000 mentions)

·       First MCO Announcement

·       Stimulus Package Announcement

·       Army to assist PDRM

·       MKN Daily Updates

·       Additional Initiatives for COVID-19 Outbreak

·       Pakej Prihatin Announcement

·       Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) – Simpang Renggam, KL Skyscrapper, Hulu Langat

·       Tabung COVID-19

·       PM & Ministers donate 2 months salary

·       MAEPS Quarantine Centre to manage spike in cases

·       Sanitisation

·       BNM Moratorium

 

·       RM160 million funds to MOH

·       1,000 housemen mobilized for government hospitals

·       Entrepreneur Development Ministry announces loan moratorium

·       Tax deduction for COVID-19 donations

·       Ministries hotline activated to address respective ministry issues

·       Food assistance for graduates

·       Incentive for military veterans

·       MOH calls for support of retired medical staff

 

“Social media is a great platform to share information especially during the MCO as it is fast and with 81% of our population on social media, it is an instantaneous information tool.  However, when a high of 32% mentions for a key announcement were of unverified, wrong information or negative comments, it is cause for concern. Some of the negative comments spread include weak enforcement of the MCO, impact on jobs and industries, sharp increase in price of masks and more,” observed Ms Ivlynn Yap, Managing Partner and Crisis Communications Lead Counsel of Citrine One Sdn Bhd.

 

“For MCO to achieve its intended result, which is to flatten the curve of positive COVID-19 cases and ultimately to get back to work, more verified information need to be shared vigorously to move into the high category especially initiatives by the government on containment and preparatory measures to manage potential spikes.

 

“Unfortunately, these are currently in the low mention category despite being the kind of news we need to calm people down and show our recovery curve. Unverified information shared must be reduced and stopped as these can lead to undesirable consequences such as increasing panic, eroding the intended message by the government and leading people to the wrong sources of information,” Ivlynn opined.

 

The government communications machinery will need to up their ante to drown these misinformation and fake news and to address dissatisfaction and negative comments more promptly and vigorously. At the same time, more efforts need to be done to ensure the news that matter, the crucial information for the success of MCO are well shared by Malaysians,  she suggested.

 

Overall, the study noted the government especially MOH is managing the COVID-19 crisis communication fairly well and every effort is being made particularly daily updates when it comes to number of cases, deaths and recoveries, crucial data to assess the most current situation and effectiveness of MCO.

 

The government has also leveraged on the multiple communication platforms to ensure verified information reaches the people such as traditional press conference, radio and TV broadcasts, SMS notifications to more contemporary platforms such as the use of Telegram, FB, Twitter, Instagram and online portals.

 

“We urge Malaysians to share more verified information online to ensure misinformation and fake news do not spill over and gets distributed to other apps like Whatsapp, Telegram and more. We need to work together in spreading timely and accurate information in times of crisis similar to our focused effort now to stay at home and break the infection chain,” concluded Ivlynn.