- June 01, 2021 10:35
Misinformation has always been pervasive but this is not a new phenomenon especially during election season. The Philippines has experienced its own plights regarding this issue as well as social media becoming a constant battleground of those on the opposite sides. It is not only the media’s job to ensure that credible information is disseminated throughout the country but all Filipinos can take their share of responsibility as well.
During the elections, the majority of campaigns will be featured online so it is vital to keep this platform as a safe and trustworthy news source.
Here are eight strategies to practice to avoid being misled online and to help protect society from misinformation.
1. Check for Credibility
With so much information readily available at one’s fingertips, it may be overwhelming to see thousands of results from just one Google search. It is helpful to take note of websites that are affiliated with reputable institutions that have a long track record of trustworthiness and integrity. Websites that are administered by government agencies, non-profit organizations, foundations, and universities are examples of credible sources.
Differentiating credible sources may be an easy task for the Millenials and Generation Z audience but it is quite a different story for the older generation, specifically the Baby Boomers. In an article published by Business Insider in 2019, it is said that during the 2016 Presidential elections in the United States of America, it was found that people over 65 years old were far more likely to share intentionally false or misleading information on Facebook than all other adults.
There are many ways in which the younger generation can lend a hand in helping their elders search for credible sources. Simple acts such as explaining what basic misinformation is and showing examples of what fake news sources look like when seen online is one way of getting both the younger and older generation involved in learning all about the matter at hand. Showing care for both the country’s democracy as well as older Filipino voters is always essential.
2. Inspecting for Truth
The availability of news sources plus the convenience and speed of social media — combined with readers' short attention spans — make it easier for readers to fall into the trap of fake news, especially when most have an inclination to read only the headlines. Fortunately, some websites have made it their purpose to fact-check rumors, health claims, and political statements, especially those that circulate often on social media.
The greatest strategy to combat the spread of misinformation is to always consider the source or where this news is coming from. Most people rely on the media to do proper fact-checking before reporting the news but these days, non-media organizations have taken it upon themselves to counter-check if facts seen online and on television are true or not.
An example of a non-media organization is VERA Files which was established in the Philippines in 2008 by veteran Filipino journalists Ellen Tordesillas, Luz Rimban, Booma Cruz, Jennifer Santiago, Yvonne T. Chua, and Chit Estella. According to their website, they are a media nonprofit that probes Philippine issues and fact-checks false and misleading claims. Along with Rappler, VERA Files became a part of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program in the Philippines in 2018.
3. A Persuasive Approach
It is a familiar feeling of witnessing a family member or close friend share news articles online that sound questionable, to begin with. However, it may be a bit more serious if it is about a topic such as politics and elections. Family group chats can become harmful platforms for the dissemination of false reports during times of stress.
In an article published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2020, people are swift to share unverified information with those closest to them, and they are more likely to believe fake news when sent by friends and family.
In trying to persuade someone to change their mind, there is an invisible fight involving confirmation bias. The "illusory truth effect" occurs when people believe something only because they have heard that it is true numerous times. In effectively persuading someone to change their mind, it is always helpful to come prepared — be confident in the facts that are true and legitimate, have a logical argument at hand, and always choose the words carefully.
4. Becoming Smart Online
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s definition of media and information literacy is to allow individuals to become engaged citizens and responsible decision-makers. As a result, empowering people via media and information literacy is a necessary course of action for ensuring equal access to information and knowledge.
Anyone can now easily generate media because of the current digital age and this may be published for a variety of reasons which makes it difficult to learn and teach media literacy. Nonetheless, in this day and age, media literacy is a necessary skill. In learning more about this, practice makes perfect in terms of properly consuming media. One practice is to detect bias in advertisements or political rhetoric. People may ask themselves if this media appeals to emotion rather than logic, is the information generalized, or does this have a one-sided perspective?
5. Inspect for Errors
It is a common practice for organizations and publications to perform fact-checking and proofreading of to-be-published articles because many things are at stake if a significant mistake slips through after rigorous checking. If the writing intends to deliver and inform factual news, every detail included in the article or writing must be based on evidence, such as official police findings, studies, and reports from renowned institutions or officials.
With the intent of delivering clear and concise information, it is best to consider the right usage of grammar when writing, as it has an impact on how the writing can be understood by the reader. Moreover, correct use of grammar exhibits professionalism and meticulousness of an entity, which helps people to identify the said entity as a credible source.
Commonly, false news or writings with the intent to disinform contain major grammatical errors, indicating unprofessionalism and increasing the possibility of not being fact-checked and proofread before being posted.
Sometimes, the publishers intentionally remove certain parts of information to make an interview or statement appear intriguing, scandalous, senseless, or completely the opposite of the statement.
6. Watch Your Reaction
It has been long taught in English classes on how we can persuade people to our favor: ethos, pathos, and logos. A sudden burst of emotion falls under pathos (emotions), and it is a very effective mode of persuasion because people tend to react first before analyzing the situation. Misleading and misinforming articles use emotionally-appealing headlines to captivate the interest of the audience and increase engagement.
Whenever encountering such articles being shared by someone you know, it is best to inform them privately that the shared article is “fake news,” as there is a possibility that the sharer is unaware of its falsehood. Afterward, present them with a real and credible article.
During the discourse, one must approach with calmness as the goal of this act is to help raise awareness about the prevalence of false news online. Evoking hatred and “cancel culture” towards the person might just abruptly end the discourse, or worse, the user will block you.
7. #Verified vs. #NotVerified #ForSatireOnly
Oftentimes, credible news and information outlets are verified on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok. This helps the audience identify who or which entities are authentic and eligible to publish articles and information.
On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok, you can identify which accounts are verified if their name appears with a checkmark, and when you click that symbol, it will say that the account is verified.
There are other accounts that imitate these verified accounts for various reasons, like satire and/or maliciousness.
For the average, this can be misleading as not everyone is critical to distinguish satirical posts from serious ones. Not everyone might even know the meaning of “satire” in the first place.
8. Look Behind the Scenes
In reading articles posted online, one should look at who's behind the words they are reading. One should know if the writer(s) is eligible to write articles about the issued topic, credible to be believed in that the information included is factual, and dependable that the writer remains objective and unbiased on the tackled issue.
One should also check if the article is #sponsored by the favorable party as the article will clearly lean in favor of the sponsor.
With the nonstop progress of technology, people have also invented and utilized advanced ways of information dissemination, where news can now reach beyond the national borders in an instant.
Misinformation and disinformation are now harder to control as it spreads quicker than authentic ones. With that being said, to fight off this “infodemic,” every entity, individual and organization, must unite.
Against the infodemic, we have to “Search and Destroy” and “Communicate and Collaborate.” Search real and false news on different platforms and destroy fake news by reporting it to the managing institution; communicate with people to expand knowledge and collaborate to promote the prevalence of factual information on different platforms.
With the upcoming national elections, expect the increase in the volume of “fake” news on social media platforms as this only wants to create discord between people so that the most vulnerable sector of our country, the poor and illiterate, would be taken advantage of.
Communication is the key in fighting the infodemic. Discuss with people what is true and false, so appropriate actions can be planned and executed. If the mass has one singular understanding of what is real and fake, it would be harder for the trolls to mislead and misinform the mass, therefore harder to be taken advantage of.
- Yuichi P. Desquitado and Ma. Isabela D. Manacsa
(Illustration by Maria Margarita Corazon P. Rivera/ FEU Advocate)
Baby boomers share nearly 7 times as many “fake news” articles on Facebook as adults under 30, new study finds. (2019, January 13). Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.nl/baby-boomers-more-likely-to-share-fake-news-on-facebook-study-2019-1?international=true&r=US
Bartolomeo, J. (2020, January). How to Fact-Check the Internet. Scholastic. https://choices.scholastic.com/issues/2019-20/120119/howt-to-fact-check-the-internet.html
Cabag, Y. (n. d.). How to Fact Check: Verifying Information You Write. TCK Publishing. https://www.tckpublishing.com/how-to-fact-check/
Gray, B. (n. d.). 10 Tips for Fighting Fake News How to Fact Check Like a Pro. LexisNexis. http://www.lexisnexis.com/pdf/nexis/Nexis-webinar-how-to-fact-check-like-a-pro.pdf
Miller, G. (2020, March 24). Researchers are tracking another pandemic, too—of coronavirus misinformation. American Association for the Advancement of Science. https://www.science.org/content/article/researchers-are-tracking-another-epidemic-too-misinformation
VERA Files. (2018, April 18). VERA Files joins Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program in PH. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-joins-facebooks-third-party-fact-checking-program