Splice News Trends: Mahathir’s fake news U-turn, Thai editor ousted and Zuck set to meet EU

In his latest roundup, Splice Newsroom founder Alan Soon explores the ramifications of Malaysia's historic election for the nation's media, plus Facebook's latest rumblings and why The Australian has launched a Chinese edition

To sign up to his newsletter, from which this content is taken, visit the The Splice Newsroom.


Malaysia’s new PM Mahathir is having second thoughts about abolishing the country’s harsh anti-fake news law that his predecessor introduced just before the recent election. Mahathir, in his campaigning, actually vowed to completely repeal the law. Now he says there need to be ‘limits’ to press freedom. I see what you did there

Mahathir: ‘There need to be ‘limits’ to press freedom’

The election upset in Malaysia is shaking up the country’s state-funded media. Media Prima’s managing editor Mohd Ashraf Abdullah will leave his post. Meanwhile, several board members at Utusan Malaysia have also resigned.

The election brought millions of users to Malaysiakini. More than 10 million people followed the coverage on the site, while another 7 million watched the coverage on KiniTV. Interestingly, the country’s communication commission tried to block Malaysiakini’s live coverage.

Umesh Pandey, the editor at Bangkok Post, was removed by the company for reportedly refusing to tone down his criticism of the military government. “I did not budge and was blunt in letting those making the decision that I rather lose my position than to bow my head. The axe finally came down on me just 60-days before my 2-year contract ended.”

Khaosod has a different take on what led to Pandey’s removal: Mismanagement.

I missed this last week. A Vietnamese court sentenced a man to four-and-a-half years in prison for writing 49 posts on Facebook that contained false information about the Communist Party. Prosecutors said he created public confusion through his posts on the compensation he got from the authorities following a toxic spill in central Vietnam. The court said he was “conducting propaganda” against the country.


Twitter has never used negative signals in ranking tweets. That’s finally changing. Finally. So if you’re acting like a jerk, the algo will now make sure that everyone sees less of what you said. The jerk-seeking-algo will also downplay anyone who’s trying to sell you shit (crypto-everything) by inserting themselves into a conversation. Well done — but long overdue. Question: How will the algo consider Trump?

Zuckerberg will appear before a closed-door meeting of the European Parliament next week. This is a slap in the face to British lawmakers who’ve asked him to appear in front of the UK Parliament, but were rejected.

The New Scientist uncovered another massive data leak at Facebook that exposed the personal details of 3 million users.Academics behind the personality quiz app myPersonality sent the data to researchers through a leaky website, making personal details easily available to hackers.

Facebook closed 583 million fake accounts in Q1. The company revealed in its first enforcement report that it moderated almost 1.5 billion accounts and posts which violated its community standards. The numbers are staggering — for example, FB said the amount of content moderated for graphic violence almost tripled quarter-on-quarter. Hate in numbers.

But what about WhatsApp? Encrypted and in closed groups of hate, WhatsApp is a bonfire of fake news. NYT has a look at the role that the chat app plays in Indian elections. “You’re dealing with ghosts.”

Columbia Journalism Review takes a hard look at the journalism funding done by Facebook and Google. There are millions of dollars going into this space. While many are happy to take the money on the table, others question the ethics behind it. “The British Empire wanted trains in Kenya and India to run well, too. So their concerns are sincere, but the effect is more often than not a deeper immersion in and dependence on these platforms.” Of course this isn’t an issue unique to the tech giants — grant-giving NGOs have also faced similar critics.


New Naratif put together a solid story on how the Muslim Cyber Army works in Indonesia. If you haven’t heard of the MCA (no, not that MCA in Malaysia!), they have been spreading fake news and driving hate speech along religious and ethnic lines. Worrying trend, especially in a country that’s been fighting fake news factories like Saracen. What makes this one different? “MCA looks more ideological, has thousands of networks in different parts of Indonesia and therefore the destructive power of this group is greater than that of Saracen.”

We’re just a week away from GDPR. Here’s what journos need to know.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one.

Q: Know of a good GDPR consultant?
A: Yes.
Q: Can I get her email address?
A: No.

The Correspondent, that fast-moving Dutch subscription news service, is getting closer to launching a global service. It’s closed a round of funding from Omidyar, giving it $1.8 million in cash to get things moving. Excited!

Printed books haven’t died. In fact, as people tire of their screens, they’re going back to the “real” thing. What about ebooks? Amazon knows; it owns the space. But it’s not telling.


China’s Pear Video says it gets around 500 million daily views on its short news videos. It puts out hundreds of news clips — all without a single journalist on staff. This is how it worksA Splice Original.

The people behind the Mekong Review publication (read our profile here) launched a companion site. Teahouse features long-read “conversations on politics and culture”.


Chinese is now the second-most widely spoken language in Australia. That’s why The Australian newspaper has a Chinese-language site targeted directly at Chinese readers. “While the audience we are reaching is smaller than our English-language reach, they are incredibly hard to target through mainstream media.” A Splice Original.

Singapore Press Holdings picked a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Product Officer to drive its digital strategy. Oddly, the former will report to the CEO and the latter to the Deputy CEO. Neither have experience in media, so this could be a good or bad thing. We’ll see.

The New York Times is partnering with FX and Hulu on a weekly documentary series called…The Weekly. It centres around stories from the Times and the journalists that work them. This comes hot on the heels of The Daily, their incredible podcast about one daily story from the Times newsroom. This is part of the Times’ ongoing foray into entertainment: A New York Times Magazine feature is going to be a Netflix documentary series, and Brad Pitt bought the movie rights to the story of how the Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story. Also coming: a four-part series for Showtime about the Times newsroom during the first year of the Trump administration.


Twitter doesn’t seem to care much about its desktop apps. Thank goodness for third-party devs. Tweetbot 3 has launched for the Mac. Much better filtering than Twitter.com, and it also makes it easier to follow different timelines. May be worth your hard-earned $10.

Al Jazeera created an open-source tool that transforms interview articles into chats. It attempts to put the user in the seat of the reporter — they ask (pre-selected) questions and they get answers from the “interviewees”. Check out the demo.


A female anchor wore glasses on air. This wouldn’t normally make the news — except it happened in South Korea. Lim Hyeon-ju at broadcaster MBC had had enough of contact lenses, fake eyelashes and artificial tears. And it started a movement. Jeju Air, a budget carrier, now allows its cabin crew to wear glasses.


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