Cabaero: We teach them

THE world has plenty to teach the Philippines- how to be a developed nation, to grow as a tech leader, and be a livable country.

But there is one area in which the Philippines can teach another country.

The United States government and its critics are locked in almost daily conflict over controversial declarations of new President Donald Trump. Immigration restrictions, anti-women and racist statements of government officials have been the trigger of street rallies and protests that extended to the online space. The United States can learn from the Philippines on how to survive in the age of fake news, hoaxes, manipulated data, and trolls.

The Philippines has a seven-month lead over the United States in experience on these challenges. Claire Wardle of the First Draft News noticed how the use of fake news, trolls and political satire marked the past months after the May 2016 elections in the Philippines. She said the United States, with President Trump not yet one month in office, can learn from the Philippine experience.

The United States can take lessons on how to live in a time when perception of reality, of what is true, can be blurry. There are gray lines between news and crowd-sourced information, between authentic comments and trolls, between humans and bots or robots.

There have been attempts to introduce reason and responsibility in online exchanges and political discussions. One huge effort is that of the First Draft Coalition that has media companies working with social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, to “raise awareness and address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age.”

It said in that hoaxes and fake stories generated for financial or political gain are challenges “common to newsrooms, human rights organizations and social technology companies and to their audiences, communities and users.”

The New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and Google created in 2015 the First Draft Coalition to improve the quality of information on social media.

The Philippine experience showed the rise of digital warriors for political parties, business interests, and different advocacies. These are people, most of them paid, who use social media as a battleground to win hearts and minds. Social media icons get government positions to manage perception and bring their millions of followers to their side. The past months saw the need for media and the public to be discerning, to listen, to exercise control, and to let the open space provided by websites and social media strengthen democracy. There have been successes in clearing the air of misinformation, but the work continues.

It is not surprising then for those swimming in the cesspool of fake news and trolls to look to the Philippine experience and learn.

The problem of how to deal with fake information is turning into a global occurrence, with the Philippines having the advantage of being first in it.
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