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PH vote in the time of Web 3.0

By: Jason A. Baguia May 06,2016 - 10:32 PM

The 2016 Philippine election period, the first ever in the age of Web 3.0, when, among other things, social media has come of age, has showcased Filipinos’ dire need of learning media literacy, which professors Belinda Espiritu, Maria Theresa Angelina Tabada and colleagues, myself included, advocate for at the University of the Philippines Cebu’s Center for Media Education.

It started with cases of racism. Some critics of Vice President Jejomar Binay were only happy to mock him for his dark complexion. A stream of images and text went around harping on the shade of his epidermis. Taunting memes were posted and shared, sidestepping the issue of allegations of corruption leveled at Binay and translating to a certain degree to sympathy for him, as early pre-election surveys indicated.

More sinister image-text combinations followed, some showing that Pope Francis or the Singaporean premier purportedly threw their support behind the candidate from Mindanao, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. The Catholic hierarchy time and again underscored that it does not support particular candidates. Singapore’s embassy in Manila chimed the hoax of their leader’s alleged meddling in our polls and announced a search for legal action over the misinformation.

Some time amid the campaign mushroomed a whirlpool of websites, invariably without authors and which evinced no effort to make the standard self-descriptions and disclosures made in professional news websites.

These websites may be divided into three types. There first are satirical ones, with screaming headlines phrased in standard journalese. There are no obvious indications that their stories are satirical. Netizens shared as if it were news a story falsely asserting that vice presidential candidate Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo said she would resign if she won and Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II lost.

A second group of websites are the so-called click-baits. They rehash news, with little to no acknowledgment that they regurgitated works authored and broken by journalists in professional news websites. I suppose the phantom writers plagiarize the day’s top stories to prompt income-generating traffic for their pages.

The third array of websites are openly partisan, filled with press releases favoring certain candidates and attacking others. Unfortunately, thousands of readers seem unable to sniff the subjectivity of these sites, and fail to distinguish between counterfeit and real news.

The hope that the Internet be an easy platform for better communication in democratic experiments has been dashed.

Netizens need to be more discriminating. Teachers must work to enable them to sift fact from fiction. Ethicists must exhort web users to refrain from flooding cyberspace with bile, and to help them understand that emphatic, heartfelt, unsettling points do not always constitute bashing or bullying.

* * *

The most insidious attack against the elections is this apparently orchestrated discrediting of the exercise even before it has begun in earnest. Online allegations of the pre-programmed malfunction of vote counters to favor certain candidates and of vote buying are flying fast and furious.

Sadly, these claims and counterclaims will only discourage voters. They do nothing to make the elections clean. They constitute easy pretexts for those who have an interest in rationalizing social unrest, be it a government crackdown or rebellion.

For the sake of our country, netizens must stop spreading election-related rumors. Refrain from participating in sabotage, creating the false impression that credible polls are an impossible dream.

If you have first-hand experience of poll irregularity, write a report and file it with organizations who can help address the problem, like the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections and Kontra Daya. Better yet, execute an affidavit with the Commission on Elections. The official Facebook accounts of these government and citizen organizations feature relevant instructions.

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TAGS: Comelec, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, election, Mar Roxas

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