Students urged to fight fake news

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio October 10,2018 - 10:31 PM


SEASONED journalists called on students to help detect and fight the proliferation of fake news on social media during the Democracy and Disinformation Conference and Workshop held at the Southwestern University (SWU), Wednesday.

Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) Associate Editor John Nery, PDI Visayas Bureau Chief Connie Fernandez-Brojan, and Ellen Tordesillas of VERA Files challenged journalism students and campus journalists to constantly fact-check information before sharing the news online.

Tordesillas expected fake news to spread more as the 2019 midterm elections draw nearer and after the proven influence of social media as a game changer in the 2016 elections.

“The solution is education not legislation because an informed citizenry is an empowered citizenry,” said Tordesillas.

Tordesillas encouraged netizens, especially the youth, to take time to check the information they see online and to help educate their peers on detecting and combating fake news.

Nery, for his part, explained that fake news produced online uses a systematic approach to fully integrate the falsified news into the social media outlets to make them appear as authentic news.

According to Nery, there are three levels of fake news proliferation starting with the architects who craft the message, followed by digital influencers who use their accounts with 50,000 or more subscribers to spread the information, and finally the operators or individual users who are tasked to further spread the false information online.

Nery said that these architects, digital influencers, and operators are usually politically motivated or driven by money and paid for by the those whose interests were to be spread.

“It is important to know that these are real people behind fake news,” said Nery.

Nery said that the purpose of fake news was to blur the lines between reality and fiction which causes the audience to be vulnerable to manipulation.

Fernandez, who also teaches journalism at the University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP-Cebu), discussed how journalists can be a victim of online trolls and how fake news affects their job.

She shared her experience of being harassed online by Duterte supporters who did not like her articles about President Duterte’s past connections with suspected druglord Peter Lim.

She encouraged those who wished to become journalists to start loving the people around them and to be curious with their lives as journalism is a vocation of public service.

“The media is not a suspect or a victim of disinformation because the media is just the media. It does its job. Because the media is run by people, it also makes mistakes. The difference between journalists and propagators of fake news is once we make mistakes, we own up to it, make a correction, and move on,” said Fernandez.

At least 50 participants attended the forum from different schools in Cebu including Cebu Eastern College, UP-Cebu, University of Cebu, and SWU Senior High and College.

Rochyne Sapio, 19, editor of The Quill, the official student publication of Southwestern University PHINMA, said that as a campus journalist she was ready to do her duty against disinformation.

“I learned to never use clickbait headlines because it will misdirect the readers from the real story,” said Sapio.

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