By Maria Fiona Labucuas | Feature Writer
Vol. XCIII No. 7
Sept. 27, 2019
Nowadays, social media is a minefield of unreliable sources and trudging through false information is a game of hit or miss. Given the number of people who fall victim to this false information, I guess they never miss, huh?
In a survey on online habits conducted by HootSuite and We Are Social, the Philippines topped the global list with an average of 10 hours and two minutes of screen time every day. The survey showed that Filipinos spend 99% of their time online on their phones and on social media. In fact, Filipinos have made the phones a common necessity and browsing the Internet through them has become a part of their daily routines.
Social media, although often underestimated, is a powerful medium that one can use for good or for bad. It can be used to create, spread, and access information among others. Things posted online, especially if the person has a big online following, can spread like wildfire. Everything posted online can be interpreted or judged in any way. In just one tap, movements can spread to millions in just a matter of seconds. This is why it is important to be digitally responsible; this does not pertain only to ethics and etiquette but also to the proliferation of information.
Recent developments and innovations allowed us to be able to gather information online faster than before. However, just as there is fake news in print and in hearsay, there is also false information on social media. Social media also allowed us to connect, share ideas and engage with others but this privilege is abused and tarnished by disinformation and misinformation. Paige Occeñola dove deeper into this in her talk during the Digital Summit 2019 at the Luce Auditorium last September 9. She used a quote from Claire Wardle that defined disinformation:
“Disinformation is false information that is deliberately created or disseminated with the express purpose to cause harm.”
Disinformation is spread by three types of online entities: bots, fake accounts, and trolls. Bots are program-written to give an automated response; fake accounts are false online identities; and trolls, on the other hand, may be false or real but are identified by their habit of sending strong emotions of anger in online interactions and arguments. Any of these entities can be identified because of their arguments (or lack thereof) and lack of real information once one clicks on their profiles.
There is a process or a sequence that disinformation follows: harassment, seed confusion, shame or discredit, propaganda, and finally, profit or clout. An example of disinformation is the army of Facebook bots that the PDP-Laban presidential campaign utilized for the 2016 elections to paint him as a clean and modest man. These bots are still active on social media, arguing with people who express their disdain towards the current administration.
The seven types of mis- and dis-information are satire, misleading, imposter, fabricated, false connection, false context, and manipulated content. An example of one of fabricated content is the issue spread about the Cosmic Carabao by the Don Juan Brewery. Although CNN Philippines reported that it was proven by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have contained ‘high levels of methanol’ numerous bots were quick to shut down the news on Twitter saying it was invalid and that the FDA and the news company were just ‘threatening livelihoods’.
The best way to combat disinformation is digital literacy. One must be knowledgeable about fact-checking and how social media can be used to help and trick them. Upon encountering news articles, one should check the source if it is a legitimate website, watch out for grammatical and spelling errors, and exaggerated content. Sometimes, disinformation is unintentional and done by a real human being; if this is the case, it’s always better to engage and correct the wrong information published privately.
One should always spot fake news, debunk it, and give facts a stronger voice online. The goal is always to spread and speak the truth always. After all, when you play the game of phones, you win or you lie. There is no middle ground.