The President of the United States tweeted last Jan. 2, “I will be announcing the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year … Subjects will cover Dishonesty and Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News
Media. Stay Tuned!”
Upon reading, one can immediately like this tweet from Donald Trump. Why not? It’s got humor and this could probably be a good awards show—even more dramatic than the Oscars.
But is this tweet really funny?
This remark on mass media from the leader of a superpower nation is gripping, disturbing even. Ironically, Trump now wants to recognize the efforts of mass media in spreading what “fake news” is for him.
The world has changed, unfortunately.
Mass media are the fourth estate of the government—next to the executive, legislative and judiciary branches. While the three function as legislators and enforcers of law, mass media as a social institution serve as the check and balance system, critical to the government.
Truth and accuracy are what define mass media—be it in broadcast, print or electronic. Truth and accuracy are what we strive to fill the void of our “info-sphere.”
Hence, the presence of “fake news” especially over social media is a challenge for all mass media platforms; a threat to truth and accuracy.
First and foremost, we, the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS), believe that the term “fake news” is an oxymoron. News should just be always truthful, not made-up or false. Although there are news articles which commit errata, there is no malice on any party committing those mistakes and necessary corrections should be made; unlike “fake news” which sensationalize reports deliberately to cause harm or improvement to one party.
Apart from the great challenge to legitimize mass media agencies to counter “fake news,” another challenge for the mass media is to protect itself from the bashes and criticisms even from their own government.
They have been called as “dishonest, corrupt, distorter of truth, bad” (Trump, 2017) and worse spreader of fake news just because mass media have written or broadcast information that are hurtful to their position.
However, in a recent study by Oxford University, Philippines is among 28 countries whose government use fake news, and it reportedly spent P10 million pesos to spread propaganda for the president on social media during his campaign and now that he is in power. Moreover, even the Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson has peddled fake news by using wrong photos with misleading captions on her blogs.
Turns out, mass media are not the ones spreading fake news at all. They are the ones battling the fake news roots—the government.
Mass edia organizations like the Philippine Press Institutes and Vera Files have been conducting forums on fake news and how to spot them in various universities around the country. Vera Files, on the other hand, verifies information uttered by highranking government officials.
The Department of Education has also incorporated Media and Information Literacy as part of the K-12 curriculum. This “aims to develop students to be creative and critical thinkers as well as responsible users and competent producers of media and information.”
But if there is one thing we can do to stop fake news from spreading, it is to VERIFY. Verify the information we read and hear on social media before we retweet, react and worse, share.
Fake news has spread like plague in our society; and it takes not one but a collaborative effort of all members of society to stop the plague from completely polluting the “info-sphere.”
We are the millennials, the technology natives. We know social media—its boons and banes—better than other generations.
This is a battle in the “info-sphere” happening in our very own native land. This is our battle. Together, let us FIGHT!