The fight vs disinformation intensifies

TWO important dates stood out last week. The Philippines connected to the internet for the first time on March 29, 1994. Twenty-eight years later, how the internet has changed the sociopolitical landscape in the country is far from ideal. Observing International Fact-Checking Day on April 2 is all about setting the record straight and protecting the public from misinformation or “fake news.” As we mark the 28th anniversary of the Philippine internet, the #FactsFirstPH coalition reiterates its commitment to protect the facts and exact accountability from those who harm the public sphere with lies. The fact-checking layer with over 130 partners has produced almost 400 fact-checks since it started this initiative in January this year. Being part of the coalition, my participation is amplifying the truth by sharing at least three to five fact-checks daily. I repurpose the stories into a short video form on TikTok, YouTube shorts, Instagram reels, Facebook or Twitter video in that order of priority.

No one would appreciate the fact-checking videos on TikTok as expressed by a content strategist to me. “You will be surprised,” I corrected him. I receive many comments like “there should be more like you. There are so many who are blinded by lies and would be enlightened by the truth.” A student appreciated the fact check, claiming he got speechless when his professor shared fake news. When the fact check is about the disinformation disseminated through social media platforms of presidential bet Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, supporters get outraged. “Why am I destroying Marcos, Jr.?” they demanded. If I cite Rappler or ABS-CBN as the news source, the more I receive heated comments. They close their minds to the truth. I explain that these two media organizations deliver the news and that they need to check the primary source for its news content.

READ: Sa Darating Na Halalan, Ano Ang Panata Mo Sa Katotohanan? #FactsFirstPH

“You should file a case against Marcos Jr.” “You are a paid hack.” “Don’t spread fake news” or “You are too old to be on TikTok” are just a few of the sneering comments. Two of my TikTok videos received over 3,000 comments in one day. In order to understand their views, I went through each one of them. While the videos gained more likes than the comments, I could perceive that the vicious ones are driven by coordinated inauthentic behavior or coordinated influence behavior. I mention this because the comments followed similar lines, like they were copying from a script. Most of the users had less than five followers, in private mode and with no videos. Despite the toxic comments, I get inspired by the undecided. The fact-checking made them consider other candidates outside of Marcos Jr.

The International Fact-checking day is “not a single event but a rallying cry for more facts — and fact-checking — in politics, journalism and everyday life.” Those with vested interests must not be allowed to take over the internet and propagate fake news relentlessly. While the internet has shaped politics, business, and culture in dramatic ways, evil forces have also used it to cultivate a monstrous creature: disinformation. They have weaponized the internet’s pervasive and near-omnipresent character to entrench disinformation, creating an alternate reality. Distorting historical facts.

On the 28th anniversary of the Philippine internet, my colleagues at #FactsFirstPH circulated a statement that we need to protect the facts.

“The victims of subverted track records and rewritten histories propagated online are the public. The tool once heralded to facilitate interconnectedness is now used by some to divide, conquer and spread mass deception. The fight against disinformation has become more urgent, with several candidates in the upcoming elections reaping the rewards of disinformation. At this important juncture, the future of the country is at stake. We enjoin all truth-loving Filipinos to do their share in taking back the internet for intelligent, fact-based and compelling discourse. Together, let us fight back forces that are bent on continually deceiving internet users and peddling lies. It is every Filipino’s solemn duty to be a vanguard of truth.”

Less than 40 days to go before election day. Continue to spread factual information to your friends, family and loved ones. What are you doing to fight for truth?

First published at Sunday Business & IT, April 3, 2022.