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Monday, September 16, 2019

Velez: Of hoax and fakes

MAYON Volcano was “moved” to Naga City last week. This week, photos of a fake Super Blood Blue Moon appeared on Facebook.

So that’s how bad things are turning out on Facebook. Even nature can be faked. Neil Gaiman is right, technology is the new god of these times. My friend had to check Mount Apo if it’s still here in place.

But let’s talk about what happens if you share something like that faked supermoon photo? Because that’s what I did, little of what I know about photography and digital manipulation. Some friends said, that’s like spreading fake news.

Of the thousands and millions of information fed on Facebook, there is always misinformation (wrong information which can be unintentional due to lack of fact-checking) and disinformation (false information that is deliberately made to mislead). But not all of them can be called fake news.

Some can be called hoax. Remember during the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and nuclear radiation, there was a message spread around Facebook and texts urging everyone in this country to bathe ourselves in Betadine to save ourselves from the radiation.

When my friend posted that, I made a Google search about that information and Google put me right into news sources that debunked that claim. I quickly messaged a friend who posted that on Facebook and linked her with the news and she deleted that post.

I remembered during the Mount Apo forest fire in 2016, I shared some photos of mountain blaze that turned out it was not Mount Apo. Friends called out my mistake.

It’s not the first time I made a mistake, and I guess most of you do. But the norm in social media is that when you post or shared something which turns out to be false, misleading or causing hurt or discrimination on someone, you need to take it down and apologize. Don’t be part of the web of misinformation spread online.

Like what I said in my past column, to err is human, that’s why we have the delete button, the backspace button and the words “I’m sorry”.

Indeed, we don’t want to spread lies and alarm. But one has to ask, why are these fake things happening online and sometimes ruining our day? Some do it as prank, but fake news is another thing. Like another friend said, fake news is just chismis online, and chismis being one of the social ills, the difference is everyone gets to read who you’re gossiping or backbiting about.

To be technical about it, journalist Ed Lingao describes that “Fake news should be construed to mean information deliberately faked in order to appear like news.” Lingao cited a study from Stanford University that studied such practice during the US elections. The study also pointed out that with prevalence of fake news, there are people who actually like to get “partisan ‘news’ or stories that affirm their beliefs.”

There lies the problem. But in a democracy, Lingao said, “Everyone has the right to be wrong; but everyone also has the responsibility to get it right.” The difference is, if you’re a government official, and you’re doing it, then someone’s not doing his/ her responsibility. And there’s the problem when government easily dismisses critical points and questions as fake news, and the public loses.

So the key to fight hoax and fakes is in education, so that the public, the students and even ourselves can read carefully, critically and verify information before clicking and spreading the word, or photos for that matter. Although reading can give you a nosebleed at times, it's better than looking up the moon for answers.

(tyvelez@gmail.com)
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