Editorial: Stop fake news

ONE of the big challenges the government and health sector are facing in battling the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is the spread of misinformation and fake news.

Whether it is a fake voice recording of the city mayor or chain messages, the spread of misinformation is proving to be a challenge to the government in ensuring that the public is calm and that only the right information is being given to them.

“Isa sa challenge nato sa pagkakaron (One of the challenges we are facing) is how to make the correct information reach the people, and how to stop fake news, misinformation, or deliberate malicious sending out of wrong information nga ginabuhat sa mga ubang tao (what other people are doing),” Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said.

To combat the proliferation of fake news, the City Government of Davao has employed various mediums of communications. Most notable is the utilization of the 87.5 Davao City Disaster Radio where the city mayor and the City Information Office team go live daily. Through this, the mayor is able to debunk misinformation that is spreading. The city has also made it clear to its constituents that all announcements will either be announced on the Davao City Disaster Radio or posted on the city government’s official Facebook page.

Local journalists are also doing what they can to support the government in stopping the spread of fake news and misinformation. Every information that journalists receive is being verified before it is released. We only make sure that whatever information we release are from official sources only. Whatever information we receive are also being scrutinized.

Whether it is the government or the local journalists, they have constantly encouraged the public to always verify the information they get and also to not spread fake news. But despite the reminders, why do fake news or unverified reports continue to spread?

One of the reasons could be is the slow response of some government agencies in debunking misinformation, fake news, or unverified reports. Fake news spreads like wildfire. Gullible and anxious netizens are quick to share such information without verifying it. Before the government is able to debunk the wrong information, it has gone viral already.

The government must act quick in debunking wrong information. If it acts too slow, it would be difficult to bring the correct information to the public. It should have a team that will go through social media to look for any fake news and debunk them quickly. The team could also coordinate with local journalists who always verify the information they receive.

As for the public, here are simple ways you can verify the information.

(1) Check if the information was released officially by a government agency. Many government agencies and local government units have Facebook pages where they post the latest announcements and updates regarding Covid-19.

(2) Cross check the information if it has already been published or posted on the digital platforms of legitimate media outfits. If it is a breaking story, most likely it is on their social media pages. Full stories would usually follow -- it may be broadcasted over the radio or published on their website.

When in doubt about the information you received, just do not share it. During these times, it is important that we also be responsible with the information we share. The more we share misinformation and fake news, the more we cause confusion and fear to other people.


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