Crime-Fake News Nexus

Crime-Fake News Nexus

Xingyu Chen (Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore), John Yu (Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore), Pamela Goh (Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore), Loo Seng Neo (Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore), Verity Er (Home Team Behavioural Sciences, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore) and Majeed Khader (Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch004

Abstract

Fake news has been a popular topic since the 2016 U.S. elections, where researchers have studied its impact on politics and social unrest. In recent times, there have been cases of fake news being perpetrated for criminal gain. For example, in Singapore, names of high-profile figures were used by scammers to trick people to invest in dubious cryptocurrency. Such cases highlight the emergence of a nexus between fake news and crime, for which there is scant literature. To enhance current understanding about this growing concern, this chapter examines 32 crime-fake news incidents in Singapore from 2013 to 2018. Based on a descriptive analysis of these cases, this chapter aims to answer the following questions: (1) What are the types of crime-fake news in Singapore? (2) What is the impact that it has in Singapore? (3) Who are these fake news creators and what motivates them? (4) What are the popular methods of transmitting crime-fake news? and (5) Who responds to the crime-fake news? In addition, implications in the areas of public education and crime prevention will be discussed.
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Introduction

Following the surge in false stories during the 2016 U.S. elections, there has been increased scrutiny on the phenomenon of fake news by practitioners, academics, and policymakers (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017; Silverman, 2016). Fake news has gained prominence throughout the world since then, with the intent or potential to undermine public institutions, incite social tensions, and interfere with political processes in affected countries (Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, 2018; Tan & Ang, 2017). Consequently, governments worldwide have been deliberating and stepping up on legislative and non-legislative measures to combat the threat of fake news to social and political stability (Haciyakupoglu, Hui, Suguna, Leong, & Abdul Rahman, 2018). Furthermore, mounting pressure on technology companies to manage the spread of fake news has led tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter to pioneer efforts to address this problem (Drozdiak, 2018; Foo, 2018).

However, the study and management of fake news is a complex issue. To begin with, the concept of “fake news” is not new as the origins of fake news can be traced back to ancient Rome, where it has been used as a method to consolidate political power. Most famously, during a power struggle for the Roman Empire in 32 BC between Octavian and Mark Anthony, Octavian illegally ‘acquired’ and read out Anthony’s will to the Roman Senate as proof that Mark Anthony had betrayed the Roman people and that he was a puppet of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Johnson, 1978). To this date, the degree to which Octavian tampered the contents of the will before he read it out to the Senate, is still debatable (Sirianni, 1984). Nevertheless, history will show that it succeeded in turning the people of Rome against Mark Anthony (MacDonald, 2017). This is just one of many cases where fake news has influenced the way people live their lives.

Recognising its potential impact on society and national security, this phenomenon has become an important topic to examine and understand. Existing studies on fake news has focused on different areas of research, such as identifying the actors behind the creation and spread of fake news (Marwick & Lewis, 2017), as well as the psychological vulnerabilities of individuals which contribute to their beliefs in false information (Ecker, Lewandowsky, Fenton, & Martin, 2014).

Another emerging area of concern is the connection between fake news and crime. From the ‘Pizzagate conspiracy’ in the United States which led a man to fire his rifle in a restaurant after conspiracy theorists linked it to a fictitious child sex ring (“‘Pizzagate’ gunman sentenced to four years,” 2017), to false rumours instigating violence and destruction of Muslim properties by Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka (Taub & Fisher, 2018), fake news has become intertwined with criminal offences of various magnitudes across the globe. Singapore, for example, has also seen a recent emergence of bitcoin investment scams that employ fake news to deceive their victims (Tee, 2018). Despite this emerging nexus between fake news and criminal conduct, there is a dearth of literature examining this convergence to date.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Crime-Fake News: Fake news content which commits a transgression within the legal system in Singapore that can warrant a fine, imprisonment, or both.

Fake News: Content that contains inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information about current events, which is being distributed through different channels of communication such as print, broadcast, text messaging, or social media.

Alternative Media Outlets: In Singapore, this refers to platforms which are not under the ownership of Singapore’s mainstream media organisations: Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings. These sites predominantly accept posts from contributors who may be anonymous.

Axial Coding: The process of identifying the relationships between the categories and linking them together. The process yields subcategories that are grouped under a specific category. This process takes place after open coding.

Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods: In 2018, a Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods was set up by Singapore’s parliament to examine and report on the phenomenon of the use of digital technology to spread falsehoods online. They have since unveiled 22 recommendations to combat online falsehoods.

Open Coding: The process of repeating readings of media sources and a line-by-line analysis of the data in order to open up the data to understand the meanings and concepts in it. Open coding includes the labelling of concepts and creating categories for comparison.

Selective Coding: The process of further linking the categories from axial coding into a core category. This process takes place after axial coding.

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