Catap-Lacson: The battle against fake news


FOR those thinking that anyone can become a reporter or journalist without studying Mass Communications, then I have to look you in the eye and say that you have to learn a few things first before posting a news content for public consumption. Before I proceed with my argument, I have to make a disclaimer-people who became media practitioners by experience are not included here.

As media practitioners, we become influential as we have the power to be agents of change and development through the fulfillment of our duty of disseminating information to the public. As the fourth estate, the news media has long been regarded as an important force in the government, and has been portrayed as an integral component of democracy. Being a journalist requires time to gather information and piece them up into a news item. This process alone becomes so tedious at most times particularly in ensuring that the goal of being objective and giving a clear and bigger picture is done.

The concept of citizen journalism wherein the viewing public is encouraged to participate in the process of news gathering and reporting by recording local newsworthy events and acting as citizen reporters, is one of the examples of interactive news mentioned by Broadcast/Online Group Leader at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies Al Thompkins during a lecture before journalism students, stressing on the main assertion that “interactivity is the future of news.” Using examples such as Korea’s OhMyNews wherein “thousands of unpaid citizen journalists” write stories which are then edited by small group of “professionals”, he encouraged journalism students to develop multimedia skills in delivering news in print, broadcast, or web.

However, with the so-called digital rise in which the social media has encompassed most of the aspects of our daily lives, the concept of citizen journalism has also went beyond the limits of traditional journalism, even going to the point of citizen reports and uploads are uploaded before official news and journalists’ stories. This means that nowadays, practically anyone can produce content, upload and offer it to the public without the content even being verified for authenticity and veracity.

It’s very common to see news about celebrity deaths and other events which are not even true uploaded in the social media. These content, which are either maliciously published or not, clearly violate the principles of ethical journalism. It is so easy for people to come up with websites, blogsites, channels, and social media pages that compete with the verified sources of information such as the media channels, information agencies, and other branches of the government.

The battle against fake news is one that information agents and development communicators have to live up to these days. It is clearly a challenge to ensure that all information being published for public consumption is true, accurate, and with sufficient basis.

Senate Bill 9 or the Anti-False Content Act filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto makes the creation and spread of false information a crime.

Sotto said Filipinos have “fallen prey to believing most of the click-baits, made up quotes attributed to prominent figures and digitally altered photos. This bill seeks to protect the public from the adverse effects of false and deceiving content online.”

Based on the proposed bill, these will be regarded as violations and are punishable by law: “creating and/or publishing on one’s personal online account or website a content knowing or having a reasonable belief that it contains information that is false or what would tend to mislead the public; use of a fictitious online account or website in creating and/or publishing a content knowing or having a reasonable belief that it contains information that is false or that would tend to mislead the public; offering or providing one’s service to create and/or punish a content online knowing or having a reasonable belief that it would be used to deceive the public, regardless whether it is done for profit or not; financing an activity which has for its purpose the creation and/or publication of a content online containing information that is false or that would tend to mislead the public; and non-compliance with any of the counteractive measures, whether deliberate or through negligence.


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