The Interior Ministry’s IT department has reminded the public to be careful and verify chat groups that purport to be official government channels at this time lest bad actors set up imitation channels to spread false news during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a Facebook post, the department said amid the ongoing community outbreak, the government had continued to take essential measures to prevent its spread including having set up chat groups at the national and sub-national levels, especially via messaging app Telegram.

In order to increase efficiency and maintain people’s privacy, the department's working group set up some protective mechanisms to verify chat groups before a person becomes a member.

The team said if they suspect a chat group of intending to post news causing chaos and stealing information they will report it to the police.

“Please identify administrative accounts and chat groups and send other essential messages directly to administrative accounts or accounts of coordinators rather than sending them to other groups that can see or copy secret documents or personal information,” it said.

The department also recommended that people share news with a clear source and post personal comments in a moral and responsible manner.

Digital security consultant Nget Mose welcomed the guidelines as Telegram is widely used in Cambodia.

He said Telegram users themselves should learn more about how to use the app safely.

“In fact, social media is a double-edged blade that cuts both ways. It can be very useful, but also dangerous. It depends on us and how we use it,” he said.

However, Mose suggests that the authorities who formally use social media set up proper principles and guidelines for controlling it to avert the dangers and risks because reliable information at this time is vital to prevent a worsening of the Covid-19 crisis in Cambodia.