HomeSoutheast Asian Media Studiesvol. 3 no. 1 (2021)

A Study of the COVID-19 Infodemic in Malaysia

Lim Shiang Shiang | EDMUND NGO CHUN HOU



The Malaysian public has been intensely fearful of the COVID-19 pandemic, but an infodemic has been spreading even faster than the virus itself. This has become a major concern because false information has disrupted the Malaysian government’s efforts to deal with the pandemic. This study attempts to compare the types of fake news regarding COVID-19 that emerged during three separate waves of the pandemic in Malaysia, from January 2020 to March 2021. A quantitative content analysis approach was used for data collection and 314 samples (48 from the first, 214 from the second, and 52 from the third wave) were extracted from, a portal initiated by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). The findings revealed that most fake news about COVID-19 was designed to spark fear and panic during all three waves. Examples included patients escaping hospital quarantines and locations being identified as red zones. In addition, inconsistencies in the Malaysian government’s policies and instructions also led to an increase of viral rumours in social media during the second wave. The findings emphasize the importance of authorities ensuring information consistency and transparency during the pandemic. Considering that COVID-19 is a current issue and there is a growing need for information, the findings are significant as they could serve as guidelines for dealing with false information. Raising awareness is vital for more people to be alert before trusting any information they read and sharing it online.