How individuals, groups came together to fight lies in 2018
MANILA, Philippines – If 2018 were a movie, then one of its greatest adversaries would have been a character called “fake news.”
Technology and social media have, unfortunately, made spreading lies and disinformation online with so much ease. (READ: More Filipinos aware of fake news on social media – Pulse Asia)
The spread of false information in the Philippines started during the 2016 presidential election through fake accounts. They sowed anger by seeding timelines with revisionist narratives of history and misleading memes. The weaponization of the internet and social media took off after President Rodrigo Duterte's election, using hate to incite violence against perceived critics of the drug war and the government. Two years later, "patriotic trolling" shows no signs of stopping. (WATCH: 'Fake news' and the dilemma it has created)
But there is a silver lining in this situation: in 2018, various groups and individuals banded together for the sole purpose of fighting fake news.
Several media groups worked on various initiatives this year to address the threats that online disinformation posed to media and democracy.
From an annual forum of media leaders, Media Nation morphed into a collaboration toward fighting disinformation, improving media literacy, and protecting press freedom.
In January, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines led several groups in staging Black Friday protests, initially as a response to the order of the Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) to revoke Rappler’s license for allegedly violating the Constitution and Anti-Dummy Law – a move considered as a major blow to press freedom. (TIMELINE: The case of Rappler’s SEC registration)
Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), VERA Files, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle Philippines, the University of the Philippines, BlogWatch, Media Nation, Citizen Safe, Foundation for Media Alternatives, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation also organized a forum called Democracy and Disinformation in February to raise awareness on the state of democracy and the problem of disinformation in the country.
ANC, CMFR, NUJP, PCIJ, Rappler, and the SunStar group also celebrated World Press Freedom Day by launching an animated video that encourages people to read more, listen more, and consume news from diverse sources.
Meanwhile, the Unesco-led global campaigns #25SecondsForPressFreedom for World Press Freedom Day, and #ThruthNeverDies for World Impunity Day emphasized the importance of the press in the pursuit of truth. (WATCH: When Philippine media is threatened)
Student journalists and different communities also pledged to fight lies and disinformation in their own individual ways.
MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, organized several roadshows in Laguna, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Eastern Visayas to promote the conversation on using social media for social good and train volunteers and student journalists on fact-checking.
At the #MoveCebu: Social Good in the Digital Age forum and workshop, students of the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City pledged to fight disinformation. They not only promised to check their sources before sharing online posts, they also pledged to stay engaged online. (READ: USC students pledge to fight disinformation, defend press freedom)
MovePH also organized two bootcamp events at the Rappler headquarters in May and December for campus journalists who are interested in becoming volunteer fact-checkers.
In one of these events, they shared why press freedom mattered to them.
The Democracy and Disinformation consortium also organized a series of roadshows and held its first events in the provinces of Cebu and Pampanga. The events tackled the role of the media and the problems we face on democracy and disinformation, and taught the public what they can do to be part of the solution.
Reporting fake ‘news’
Civic engagement did not end with pledges during the workshops.
Online, volunteers and netizens reported and flagged Facebook links and posts they believed to be spreading fake news. They reported these posts in a Facebook group called Fact-checking in the Philippines, a platform where fact-checking advocates could "gather to discuss the disinformation problem and what we can do about it."
With the help of the community, Rappler's external fact-check efforts produced almost 200 explainers. Below are some of our fact-check stories that started from reports sent to us through email or Facebook.
- HOAX: Pope Francis 'agrees' with Duterte, 'slams' abusive priests
- HOAX: Pangilinan, Hontiveros 'file bill to abolish 13th month pay'
- HOAX: 'US diplomat' says Balangiga Bells were returned 'because of Duterte'
- HOAX: US Ambassador Nikki Haley 'quote' on Duterte
Do you want to be part of the MovePH network? Sign up here! – Rappler.com