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Confused about Covid-19 fake news? This Malaysian website fact checks it for you

Just recently, our Prime Minister has made yet another announcement regarding the restricted movement control order (MCO). This time around, his 2 minute speech was basically about…

If you’re reading this and still have no idea what an MCO is and what you can or cannot do, check out our previous article that explains about it here or you can check the govt’s list of Frequently Asked Questions here.

And with ALL news flooding our social media timeline, how can we actually distinguish which news is real or not? Now, we know in our previous Real Fake News articles, we mentioned that you can always check them at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) website called sebenarnya.my

But what if we tell you there is a website called outbreak.my that can tell you if a news on Covid-19 is real AND you can check live updates of Covid-19 cases (on a map) at the same time?

 

The team behind Outbreak is the same team behind PRU charts!?

So when we got in touch with the team behind Outbreak, who would prefer to remain anonymous so we’re gonna call them the Outbreak team, we were informed that they are a part of a tech company that develops apps called Evozi. If you feel like you’ve heard that name somewhere, well, that’s because they’re also the peeps behind the PRU website during the 2018 general election.

Click image to view the PRU website.

The Outbreak team, consists of two Malaysians from Evozi btw, told us that they were pretty much inspired to start Outbreak MY after seeing several China websites (like this one) that provide information about Covid-19 in that country.

“One of the reasons is we saw some China websites also doing this type of portal that show graphs and charts, hence it inspires us to do (one) too. But their websites are way better than ours.” – Outbreak team to CILISOS.

So when the first few Covid-19 cases were announced in Malaysia back in 25th January 2020, the Outbreak team decided to start a website similar to the ones in China to keep Malaysians updated about Covid-19. They call it Outbreak so that they can cover future outbreaks in Malaysia (remember this for later) and they’re doing this FOR FREE!

But not many people may be aware of the website then (yea, this writer only knew about this recently) la considering how we may have been relying on news sites and updates from the Health Ministry (MOH)

If you go on their website, you would be greeted with graphs and charts like this…

Graph on the breakdown of Covid-19 cases from Outbreak

…or even a live location tracking map like this…

Click screenshot from Outbreak to view the map.

…to help you see where active cases are.

Waitamin… if Outbreak’s website reminds you of something, that’s because it kinda look like Malaysiakini’s site dedicated for Covid-19.

 

But unlike other news sites, they also have a group to discuss Covid-19

Okay, okay. We know that news sites have dedicated a section on their websites for news related to Covid-19. In fact, some news site like Malaysiakini went a step further (like they always do with other topics like the Perak constitutional crisis or the general election’s result) by making a special site to give us a live update on Covid-19.

Heck, theirs are in dark mode wei. Click image from Malaysiakini to view the full page.

So how is Outbreak any different from this?

Well, according to the Outbreak team, they were actually the first to start a site like this when Covid-19 was announced in Malaysia.

“Previously when this website being develop, most of the news site still doesn’t have a special category for Covid-19.” – Outbreak team.

What they do is to aggregate news summary from the multiple websites like Malaysiakini or updates from MOH and the National Security Council to their own site. However, it’s worth to note that the team does NOT work with or for any of these entities la.

But with soooooo many news being updated every now and then, how does the team decide which news to put on their website??

“To avoid unrelated news being linked to the web, and we feel like no users will go through the lists of news, we just pick what might be important to be published.” – Outbreak team.

And they would update their site with news related to Covid-19 and verifying facts about the virus every two to three hours… MANUALLY. They told us that it is pretty challenging and time consuming to do this, especially verifying news, so what they would normally do is to wait for a bit before posting the news on their website.

This is probably how the team scrolls thru all those Covid-19 news. Gif from Giphy

“We worry about that (fake news) too, for example, yesterday (17th March) a Chinese news portal posted the 1st Covid-19 death in Malaysia, so we waited for the official statement from KKM/Sarawak Disaster Information and other news outlet to report it before we publish the news.” – Outbreak team.

Other than that, the team informed us that they are keen to help reach a wider audience as well, which is why they also have a section that updates on the number of cases worldwide. But that’s not all.

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We also found out that the team has a Telegram group (which you can subscribe to by clicking here) to keep not only Malaysians but also foreigners updated with what’s happening in Malaysia. The group, which has about 4,000 people, at the time of writing, is specially made so that people can discuss on Covid-19 itself.

When we first joined the group, we saw various messages from those sending messages to keep everyone updated on the number of cases to those sharing their personal experiences knowing someone who has apparently been tested positive of Covid-19.

Some discussion in the Telegram group.

People in the group were also discussing on whether some news they receive are real or fake. And although you can verify these through Outbreak’s website…

 

…the Outbreak team suggests that y’all still refer to official sources too

One thing we asked them was what would they be doing once the global pandemic is over. Well, earlier we kinda hint at y’all what they’d be doing la if this were to happen (remember why they name the website outbreak?) so here’s what they have to say about that…

“We will continue to focus on dengue, etc once this pandemic end.” – Outbreak team to us.

And they really do hope that the pandemic will be over soon. But, in the meantime, what you can do tho besides practicing social distancing is to make sure you don’t cause further panic to others.

One way you can do that is by making sure you verify your news before sharing them. And just in case y’all forgot how important this is, when the pandemic was first announced in our country, many people who shared fake news about Covid-19 (then known as coronavirus) were detained. And that’s because, doing so could get you punished with…

Click image to read the article we write on fake news on Covid-19.

You can read more about why this is such a huge deal in our previous article here. While you can verify news with outbreak.my, the team told us that…

“Users should refer to official source too, don’t (solely) depend on outbreak.my” – Outbreak team to us.

And you can always do that by keeping yourself up to date with official announcements from MOH or you can verify news via sebenarnya.my.

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