THE hearing on fake news initiated by the Senate committee on public information and mass media turned out to be a bit of a chaos because of the failure to define and differentiate terms. At the core of the matter is knowing what fake news is. As a result, the hearing ended with the participants and the public not getting anything much especially in terms of enlightenment.
The problem is not only about definition but differentiation. The practice nowadays seems to be to label every article or post one dislikes in mainstream and social media as fake news—-even if that item is not news but an expression of views or opinion. And what mainstream media considers as a product of oversight or even incompetent reporting is also tagged as fake news.
For example, the post in the “Silent No More” website that criticized the seven senators who failed to sign a Senate resolution condemning extra-judicial killings was not fake news based on the accepted definition of what fake news is but an opinion. Meanwhile, Asec Mocha Uson claimed during the hearing that she was a victim of fake news when the news item she complained about merely missed to get her side and clarify an information provided by a news source.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines fake news in less complicated terms as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media and usually created to influence political views or as a joke.” The operating phrase there is that the article or post “appear to be news,” meaning it follows the news format but does not adhere to the rules of truth and fairness.
When an article criticizes, condemns or take sides, it is what we in the mainstream media refer to as an opinion piece, which adheres to a different set of rules from a news item. It is not news, which means it can’t be called “fake news.” The differentiation is important because it could mean the difference between preventing the spread of false information and suppressing freedom of expression.
And it could help clear a Senate public hearing that so far is muddled and meandering.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 06, 2017.
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