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Faqcheck Insights - Roundup #1

May 16, 2024

Welcome to Faqcheck Insights where corporations and organisations can gather valuable knowledge on trends and possible informational threats to a brand’s reputation.

This blog, published every two weeks, aims to help local and global companies operating in Malaysia map our complex content landscape and online sources for misinformation and disinformation.

By mapping information across social media platforms, companies can proactively identify and address potential threats, ensuring they are well-prepared to navigate the complex environment of disinformation and safeguard their brand reputation.

Misinformation or disinformation may not directly impact brand trust, but being associated with fake news or dubious information sources will tarnish clients’ attitudes towards brands, with potential financial loss. Consumers on the other hand, face confusion, doubt and vulnerability when making purchasing decisions.

Here’s Faqcheck’s compilation for this edition:

Astrazeneca and anti-vaccine sentiments

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The latest news about Astrazeneca’s potential rare and dangerous side effects from its COVID-19 vaccine, raises the risks of misinformation in the pharmaceutical industry.  

Such news is likely to fuel pushback against vaccines, and affects pharmaceutical companies and related services about other COVID-19 vaccines, not to mention other vaccines as well.

Astrazeneca’s withdrawal of its COVID vaccine has resulted in many public reactions and questions about the safety of vaccines, including articles with a sensationalist headline like this one by the Daily Mail. 

Daily Mail’s headline linking Astrazeneca’s withdrawal with a lawsuit by British patients against the company over a rare side effect is inaccurate.  The pharmaceutical company has since maintained that its vaccine supply withdrawal was a commercial decision and not related to the court case. 

No palm oil

Photo by allPhoto Bangkok on Unsplash

The long-standing palm oil debate between Asia and Europe erupts again with recent news on raids over ice-cream in Putrajaya and chocolates in Labuan.  The Malaysian government proposes stricter checks on similar “no palm oil products” from abroad, while the EU posits its own justifications for a palm oil ban in its markets.

Two-way misinformation flow may occur here, from both pro- and anti-palm oil campaigners in Asia and Europe. So, who could be affected? Companies importing EU-based goods into Asia, and Malaysia, and those involved in the oil palm supply chain here are particularly sensitive because of the need to comply with regulatory requirements such as ESG policies.

Microsoft’s investment in Malaysia

Photo by Matthew Manuel on Unsplash

Microsoft’s recent announcement of a RM10.5 bil investment in cloud structure and artificial intelligence in Malaysia not only sparks discussions about job creations, but job losses too.

For example, in the US, technology layoffs have been going on since January 2024, with little let up in the second quarter - a trend that does not spare small or large corporations. Here in Malaysia, misinformation about AI and job replacements may pose risks to Corporate Malaysia as brought up by MTUC in this article. That could in turn spur greater use of misinformation about technology products as well as their associated impacts.

Football attacks and security

Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

Discussions on security safety measures at public spaces, shopping malls and even sporting events may be heightened as a reaction to the recent news on acid attacks on local football players. 

Within one week, three incidents have been recorded prompting a billboard campaign to show public solidarity with the affected players.   

The talk of hooliganism may prompt fears or concerns for the wider public when accessing these spaces, facilities and attending football or similar sporting events that involve national or state sporting teams.  Questions about safety and security for the general public may arise, with opportunities for rumours about certain shopping or business areas being unsafe for the general public. 

Company boycotts: Israel-Palestine war

Photo by Austin Crick on Unsplash

With the war ongoing in the Middle East, economic implications are still felt with continued conversations about new and ongoing boycott campaigns.

Blockout 2024 calls for boycotts of A-list celebrities and influencers, such as Taylor Swift and Haley Bailey.  The movement is spreading to the Malaysian market, where fans are calling out on personalities who back Israel or Israeli brands, or those who have not shown much public support for the Palestinians. 

Actress Mira Filzah told Utusan Malaysia that she didn’t oppose the ban, but called for netizens to avoid insulting those on the alleged boycott list. Meanwhile Daiyan Trisha responded to the movement by donating over RM100,000 to four non-profit organisations supporting the Palestinian cause.  Personalities like these and their brand associations are examples of the effects of possible news misinformation.

This latest campaign bears similarities to the boycott campaigns of McDonald’s, Starbucks and KFC, and as a result positively influencing local companies instead. 

Misinformation can severely affect retail brands because it forces corporations to manage public relations with key stakeholders as a way to stem any economic losses and avoid reputational damage.

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