Editorial: Laundering fake news

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley didn’t defend President Rodrigo Duterte and his war against illegal drugs. This was what the Molly Koscina, press attache of the US Embassy in Manila, clarified Sunday.

u201cTranscripts of Ambassador Haley’s remarks are publicly available on the website of the US Mission to the United Nations. I refer you to the transcripts, which confirm that she did not make the statements recently reported in Philippine media,” she said.

Koscina’s statement actually sounded like, “You should know better.” Yet even if the transcripts of Haley’s remarks at the United Nations General Assembly were publicly available, both social and traditional media in the Philippines were still abuzz about a few lines supposedly plucked from those remarks that purportedly supported the president and his war against illegal drugs.

The supposed Haley remark came from a fake news website, aljazeeranews-tv.com, complete with a photo of the US ambassador. This was apparently why legitimate journalists and other enlightened sectors steered clear of the post. It only gained traction when a Manila Times columnist used it as basis for a column.

In his article, “Dezinformatsiya: The Past, Present and Future of Fake News,” Christopher Dornan, writing for the series of reflection papers by the Canadian Commission for Unesco, defined the Russian term “dezinformatsiya” using the one used by a CIA operative: as “operations aiming at pollution of the opinion-making processes.”

The Haley incident may not be a systematic operation directed at local traditional media opinion-makers but it showed one of the weak links in the local legitimate media chain. While reporters are required to be objective in doing their tasks, opinion-makers are not, and the reality is that some opinion makers have become partisans, making them vulnerable to fake news “agit-prop” (agitation propaganda)--and therefore of laundering fake news.

The current battle against fake news by traditional media should not just be waged externally but also internally.


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