Splice News: Apple’s new charm offensive, Indonesia’s cyber army and Reddit’s troll troubles

In his latest media roundup, The Splice Newsroom’s Alan Soon delves into Malaysia and Indonesias' social media fears, Twitter's crackdown on 'Tweetdeckers' and Taiwan's new rising media star

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Malaysia is pushing forward on fake news legislation. A bill is in the works, and could come quickly with elections expected in April or May. Things are moving with a significant impact to the way reporting is done.

In the lead up to polls, Malaysia is going after foreign media’s coverage of the country’s 1MDB corruption scandal, accusing them of putting out fake news to undermine Najib’s credibility.Among those named: WSJ, NYT, Economist, Australia’s ABC, and MSNBC. You see where this is heading. 1MDB = fake news. Fake news = illegal. Therefore foreign media talking about 1MBD = fake news = illegal.

Btw, 63% of Malaysians aren’t able to figure out if what they’re reading is fake, according to an Edelman survey. Part of the problem is that readers are increasingly disengaged with news organisations, turning instead to social media as their primary source of information. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the best solution for fake news is to have credible, sustainable newsrooms. Plenty to worry about.

On the other hand, YouTube is the fake news platform of choice in India. According to some media monitors, it’s a literacy problem. According to Google, India is a video-first market. Add to that the tech-economics of quicker streaming at lower costs, and you get an epidemic thanks to low media hygiene.

Sri Lanka blocked Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp for 72 hours last week to curb communal fighting in its central highlands. Buddhist groups have been attacking mosques as well as businesses belonging to Muslims.

Civil society groups in Singapore are concerned that a proposed public order bill would confer on police the authority to shut down communications in times of unrest. No live broadcast of police operations. No transmission of text, photos or videos of the incident. No documentation of police action. The government’s apparent goal is to preserve an official version of information, but you can see how this is a source of worry for journalists trying to cover incidents on the ground. The definitions are so broad that the law could even be used to crack down on peaceful gatherings.

Indonesian police are coming down hard on massive fake news operation aimed at bringing down society order. The so-called Muslim Cyber Army is an organised network that is spreading hate around LGBT communities, communists and ethnic Chinese. The Guardian says the MCA works from a secret WhatsApp group and stirs hate through bots. It also alleges that opposition parties as well as the military are in on it.

Australia’s defence department has banned all staff from using WeChat. “The understanding is that applications like WeChat have a higher ability to aggregate and monitor data.”

China is planning to roll its media regulator into the Ministry of Culture to expand the country’s ideological influence. All part of a plan to push a softer side of China.

University of Hong Kong’s Weiboscope project documents Chinese censorship of the popular social network. Now, HKU is building a similar tool for WeChat.


UN investigators looking into the Rohingya genocide say Facebook played a “determining role” in the crisis. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”

Facebook is acting quickly in the UK, where it’s taken down the far-right group Britain First for “inciting hatred against minorities”. Good to see that Facebook is getting some shit stirrers off the platform after Myanmar.

Reddit has been around far longer than pretty much every other social platform today. And yet they too haven’t figured out how to clean up the trolls without curbing free speech. “A lot of memes, some Pokémon, and a barrage of dicks.”

Apple bought Texture, the Spotify of magazines. Don’t know what they paid for it. But this is clear: Apple continues to cozy up to publishers as Facebook retreats.

A new word to learn: Tweetdeckers. These are people who push out multiple tweets, often sounding the same, across multiple accounts to thousands of followers. Twitter is starting to suspend those accounts. Some influencers, grounded.

Media start-ups

The News Lens in Taiwan is doing what most media startups won’t — it’s acquiring its peers. It’s just bought a sports portal, and there may be more as co-founder Joey Chung takes a page out of Vox’s playbook.


It’s taken a while for Tronc to get moving on its digital journey.They’re finally making a pivot to digital, promising flatter newsrooms, fewer job titles and a smaller reporter-to-editor ratio. No doubt jobs will be cut, but Tronc says it’ll hire new talent and increase pay accordingly.

News Corp cut jobs in its finance team as part of its ongoing transformation. It didn’t say how many jobs were lost.

Nieman Lab took a look at how Lab 351, the two-year-old incubator at The Globe and Mail, is trying to create a bottom-up culture of newsroom innovation. Sometimes the simplest idea is the hardest one to get across: How do you get anyone — anyone! — across the company to pitch ideas?


The always-irreverent regional publisher Coconuts declared the media ecosystem is “fucked up”. As a result, it’s launching a US$5-a-month paywall.

BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti, who built his company on the back of Facebook’s algo, now says the platform needs to pay media companies. “It’s in Facebook’s interest to share news feed revenue, not because it’s good for the world, but it allows Facebook to have some control of what’s showing up in the news feed.”


Ruchi Kumar is a reporter in Afghanistan. She chooses to wear a ring on her wedding finger as it keeps the questions and the suitors away. Even the journalists’ union recommends that women do it. She is eager for the day that she no longer needs it.


We’ve all done this before. We’ve all rolled out eyes at press conferences when someone else is asking dumb questions.That’s ok, unless of course that’s captured on TV for all to see.

Reddit’s Showerthought of the week

People with poor spelling have the best passwords.


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