Media and academe unite to discuss disinformation in PH

MAKATI — Days after the Philippine senate’s probe on the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and license to ‘control’ media, major news outlets and universities held a conference on democracy and disinformation at Ateneo de Manila Rockwell campus last February 12 to 13, 2018. 

The event organized by national daily, Philippine Daily Inquirer focused on how rampant disinformation undermine democratic principles and processes in the country. 

A model of an informed citizen, which is central to democratic thought is having free access to information. Information is important in any form of political participation, and the internet has been an effective tool in providing access to vast amounts of information.

Democracy demands informed populace where members are in position to make informed decisions and participate. 

However for the past decade the changing landscape of information technology and its integration to our culture of communication was used for propagandas and commercialization and objectification of many aspects of our lives. 

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Educator Cheryll Ruth Soriano, chairperson of De La Salle University’s Department of Communication shared that misinformation or unintentional sharing of information and disinformation or deliberate sharing of false information are both threats to the democracy. 

 “Going back to the days of pre-social media, if the government lied, the journalists acted as gatekeepers. We not only have the ethical and professional responsibility, but also a commercial incentive to cross-check and call out their lies,” said Peter Greste, journalism professor at the University of Queensland and former Al Jazeera correspondent. 

While the use of social media enables regular citizens to react or comment directly to those who are working in the government or the advancement of e-commerce in the country, she noted that people should question wether the use of such platform was used in ‘good faith.’ 

With rampant disinformation activities and trolling in social media, it’s been difficult for regular netizens to have a meaningful and rational critical exchange of information. 

In the sense of determining the outcome through election, disinformation greatly undermine the democratic process through implicating false beliefs, conspiracies, and keeping the people ignorant of relevant facts. 

Soriano added that the impassion exchange of opposing views should not be seen as threatening itself, yet the problem is when loud and passionate voices of those seeking to mislead and spread warp messages and silence others. 

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In a data presented by Rappler CEO and Editor-in-Chief Maria Ressa, hired trolls nowadays not only seek attention but spread hate and violence through social media. 

“We need data scientist to help us understand how these [bots and trolls] operate” said Ressa. She also appeal to Facebook to help ensure that democracy survives and continue to grow in these times of rampant disinformation in the website. 

Similar forum last month was held at Far Eastern University to teach students how to spot fake news where Ressa continue her campaign against disinformation. 

While the tone of the conference set a somewhat pessimistic view on the future of journalism and right to information in the country, Senior Journalist Howie Severino of GMA News shared that the period of intimidation is ending. “There’s more and more courage. Organizing the Democracy and Disinformation conference itself is an act of courage,” Severino adds.  

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As the conference concludes, senior journalists and respected professors from the academe calls for unity in fighting disinformation in the country. 

Philippines is in the forefront of this information warfare and media’s survival depends on coming together as a trusted industry rather than compete for ratings and advertisements. 

WATCH FULL COVERAGE HERE: (Courtesy of Rappler.com)

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