Between this article’s time of writing and publication—which is only a couple of days, to be honest—I am sure there has already been a new viral video, another “pasikatin na ‘yan” post, and a widely shared status update analyzing President Duterte’s latest soundbite.
To say that social media has become a huge part of our everyday lives is such a huge understatement. In fact, Filipinos rank among the highest in the world when it comes to social media use.
The purpose of these sites have gone beyond updating friends and family about our lives. Aside from keeping us connected with people from faraway, social media has transformed into a warzone of ideals, influencers and trolls.
With all of these came widespread misinformation and proliferation of fake news.
I couldn’t help but regard the year 2016 as the height of such phenomenon in the Philippines. Bloggers suddenly became harbingers of reliable information. Paid trolls have increased tenfold and attacked like virus. Sarcasm and parody were used for the wrong reasons and were interpreted incorrectly.
In order to keep up with social media’s popularity, traditional news media organizations have been upgrading their strategies to reach the growing online audience. But professional and well-trained journalists were put on the spotlight. Tagged as dilawan, bayaran, and biased, their credibility was questioned in whatever they report.
“Do not trust them,” those bloggers and influencers repeatedly say to their thousands of followers. They have formed a cult-like group, actually. But the followers of these influencers have not only been misled. They have also learned how to perpetuate fake news and alternative facts.
Apart from the emergence of online personalities, the existence of trolls also exponentially increased. By posting nasty comments and issuing death and rape threats, they have formed mobs of angry, blinded supporters. Their purpose of existence: provoke people and kill intelligent discussions.
This kind of online atmosphere does not encourage democracy and freedom of expression. Essentially, trolls and perpetuators of fake news hinder free speech, and, thus, violate the rights of others to make informed decisions.
Unfortunately, our government does not seem to sanction the fabrication and manipulation of information. They clearly know how powerful it is.
For one, the government installed Mocha Uson as President Communications Assistant Secretary with a pay of more than a hundred thousand pesos a month.
Second, the Presidential Communications Operations Office released a misguided propaganda on Martial Law as the rule of land. Albeit deleted eventually, it is the thought that counts.
Third, the government has not done any substantial measure on how to educate people about misinformation.
It is hard to imagine a government that enjoys ongoing social media wars between two major opposing factions: the anti- and pro-Duterte administration. It is unfortunate that an increasing number of people are choosing to believe unverified posts over news from legitimate news organizations.
The good thing is: It is not too late. We can combat misinformation and the triumph of trolls and fake news propagators.
[Entry 234, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Sarah Torres is a co-founder of Out of The Box, a non-profit that forwards media literacy education in the Philippines.