An award-winning journalist warned students during a forum that fake news can cause real harm because of manipulation of public opinion and unwanted division among people.
Tess Bacalla, training director at the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), said, “Fake news is very serious and it’s something that you cannot take for granted because among others, mayroong pagkakahiwa-hiwalay, may manipulation of public opinion.”
During the “Let’s Get Real on Fake News” forum last Dec. 11 at Silliman Audio-Visual Theatre, Bacalla explained that as the population of social media users increases, some people use the platform to mislead people by spreading fake news.
“Sa social media naglipana ang fake news. It is understandable that many would rely on social media for news, but the problem is nandyan din yung maraming trash [fake news and indecent posts],” she added.
Social media’s accessibility, Bacalla said, has enabled people to not just post but also share unverified news stories in just a single click.
“In many instances we [netizens] share [on social media] something that is consistent with our beliefs, even if we have not taken the time to verify it,” she said.
At the same time, hate spread by trolls and fake news causes netizens to behave badly to one another to the point of throwing personal attack at people with opposing opinions.
“In a democratic country, it is expected that people will be divided…, but what happens is the division is such that it becomes personal or physical,” Bacalla said.
She added that arguments are healthy as long as people stay civil toward each other and not destroy people’s reputation.
Manipulation of Public Opinion
Bacalla presented the study by Oxford University entitled “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation” that says the camp of President Rodrigo Duterte spent P10M during 2016 presidential election to hire social media trolls.
Trolls refer to social media users who intentionally attack, offend, and cause hate and trouble by posting, sharing, and commenting using fake accounts.
Until now the trolls hired by Duterte’s camp are still active in social media to promote the policies made by Duterete Administration, Bacalla said, referring to the contents of the said study.
Spotting fake news
When reading news online, Bacalla advised to check the credibility of the source. This includes double checking the source’s website and assessing the quality of website’s design.
She emphasized the need to be cautious with news stories without byline or name of the writer. The website should also provide background information and contact details.
Contents of the news must also be analyzed, Bacalla said. Fake news are often one sided or have an angry tone. (with Joevic Baclayanto, News Writer)