Fact-checking to counter fake news

By: STEPHEN CAPILLAS February 01,2018 - 11:20 PM


Last Tuesday’s hearing held by the Senate committee on public information and mass media on fake news produced a rather startling question posed by the committee chairperson, Sen. Grace Poe.

The senator was shown in a video clip that went viral on social media asking a representative of Facebook Philippines if there were ways to block the Filipino’s access of Facebook in the country.

The video clip promptly drew fire from netizens of both sides of the political spectrum — i.e the Duterte loyalists and the so-called “Yellow Brigade”— but in an interview at ANC’s Early Edition yesterday, Sen. Poe refuted the allegation.

“See, that’s not true, yan ang (that is) fake news. (Blocking Facebook) it’s counterproductive. What we are trying to do is how we can encourage Facebook to cooperate with us. Mali yon eh (That’s wrong) yun talaga ang disinformation dahil i-splice nila ang lumabas (that’s disinformation because they spliced what came out),” the senator said in reference to the video clip.

The senator then summarized what is perhaps the most obvious, basic and practical solution to this problem of fake news by saying that the public should cross-check the information once gets online.

Problem is when it comes to politics, a lot of people already have their own built-in biases, and it doesn’t take much for purveyors of fake news to seize, exploit and continually feed on those biases for their own benefit.

Unfortunately these purveyors of fake news have Facebook and other social media to thank for making their jobs easier but that doesn’t in any way justify blocking public access to these platforms in order to prevent the spread of fake news.
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Interestingly, while Asst. Secretary for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Mocha Uson was a no-show during last Tuesday’s second Senate committee hearing on fake news — it was later learned that she was in an official trip to Milan, Italy with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano — other bloggers like Cocoy Dayao whom Poe made special mention also were unable to show up.

To be sure, there are other issues more pressing to attend to like the Mt. Mayon situation but when you got Uson drawing all sorts of flak for erroneously placing Mayon in Naga City instead of Albay province then it doesn’t take a genius to know that something is definitely wrong with the government’s official mouthpieces.

In this instance, however, Uson committed a mistake, honest or not and one can debate whether it is deliberate on her part or not but what did she hope to gain by misplacing Mayon in Naga City instead of Albay?

That’s what differentiates fake news from erroneous or wrong reports or news in which there were wrong details but no clear discernible motive to mislead or deceive the public.

Mainstream media at times commit mistakes in reporting the news stories but quickly issue clarifications and rectify these reports and are not meant to deceive, mislead and influence as what the fake news purveyors want the public to believe in.
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Since a lot of the senators with the exception of Sen. Manny Pacquiao as well as the mainstream media believe there are enough laws to penalize purveyors of fake news, what else should be done to reduce if not eliminate it from spreading like wildfire in social media?

Again, the most obvious solution that Poe and the resource persons present in that committee hearing came up with was media literacy which stripped down to its basics meant counter-checking everything.

In the marketplace of ideas where anyone sells anything they can think of, would someone accept hook, line and sinker anything that’s being sold to him or her? Certainly not without risking one’s safety and sanity to begin with.

The solution isn’t to have bloggers registered and the media “controlled” as Pacquiao suggested but to encourage the public to read more beyond their usual social media feed and get their facts straight.

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