Najib underlines challenges in hyperconnected world

24 Nov 2014 / 15:44 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has warned the Rakyat not to misuse the internet in spreading lies and hatred that could destroy the foundation of a multiracial society in Malaysia.
He said this is more of a concern for a nation that is made up of people from different race and religion.
"This is especially the case in a multi-religious and multicultural nation like Malaysia. We must not let the internet to become a medium for stoking racial and religious tension in a plural society like in Malaysia," he added.
He said this in his keynote remarks at the opening ceremony of the Umno International Forum 2014 themed "A Hyperconnected World: Challenges in Nation Building" at the Putra World Trade Centre here.
Najib, who is the Umno president, said there have been times in the country when the internet was inappropriately used to spread outright lies.
"For example during the last general election, a post of unsubstantiated allegations were propagated online. It was said that the government was orchestrating blackouts in polling stations to change the ballot boxes and flying in 40,000 people across the nation to vote," he said.
"These claims were all proven to be baseless lies, but not before they (the voters) have swallowed hook, line and sinker on the lies and done real damage to our reputation," he added.
He said that internet users have the responsibility to think on the content of what they share online and understand that information from the internet should not be regarded as the absolute truth.
Najib also stressed in his speech that there are three key challenges to the idea of a nation that is being shaped by the internet revolution.
The first challenge is people are given more freedom to share ideas about governance instantly and the views are spread to a global audience.
"People have access to statistics, and international comparisons. They can read and engage with opinions and political philosophies from different systems around the world, and if they are not happy with the state of their government, people can tell the world about it, in real time, with pictures, videos and hashtags to help get their message across," Najib said.
The second challenge is nation building requires the engagement of the people who make up the nation.
"It is a collective endeavour that requires the government to tap into a deeper identity and a sense of belonging to a bigger community," Najib said.
Najib added that in an online world, people are increasingly getting their social interaction with people where it creates a bigger network that can be used to positive use such as to raise awareness or promote charitable cause.
"Unfortunately, the age of information is also the age of distraction where people must understand when to put down their phone and engage with people," Najib said.
The third challenge is the internet era might hamper the diplomatic efforts between countries.
"For centuries, diplomacy has been a guarded world, with carefully established conventions and language... In a connected world, diplomacy is now more public than before," Najib said.
The release of thousands of classified documents online has changed the public and diplomatic discourse as secrets can be shared publicly.
"That will affect the way we conduct the delicate and sometimes messy business of international relations," Najib said.
Although internet has been in Malaysia for more than a decade, it is still a new phenomenon as people are still in the process of understanding the possibilities, limits and potential use.

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