Revealing the Nuances of Fake News by Kathleen Usi

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          In the early years of printing press until the evolution of the internet today, media continued to grow in power and influence. With its continuous growth in the society, vast numbers of individuals have engaged themselves in the social media. As we live in a modern society today, people have very easy access to internet which comprises of social media. It became a means of living for everyone in our times, as social media became a medium of platform for people to get the current news across the world.

          These social media platforms act as a catalyst for the general public to learn and know about the recent trends in the different fields. These includes the applications such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many more. From this small list of social media outlets, we can now say that this is where we can post anything that we want to say. The problem with our situation these days is that people can share whatever thoughts they have regarding something without having the means of checking for its legitimacy. They can just immediately post it online and let people see it and it will be on the viewer’s discretion whether to believe it or not. The issue these days is that they easily believe whatever they read in the social media and perceive it as a serious news even though it might be a fake news.

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           The term fake news has been circulating all over the social media outlets there is. The term fake news has been created due to news which deceives readers by making reports that sounds authentic but are actually not true. According to Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files, she stated that fake news are considered as lies masquerading as truth. It is actually a misnomer wherein fake news is not actually a news anymore, since it’s objective is to misinform or share false information to individuals.

          The thing is that this is not only about the news rather, it is connected to the whole information ecosystem. This is somehow confusing for a person who is used in using the term fake news but when I read articles regarding this misusage, I was able to grasp the main idea.

          The term fake doesn’t even begin to describe the complexity of the different types of misinformation (the unintended sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false). Moreover, Claire Wardle of First Draft News, shared her opinion regarding the term Fake news. She supposed that the term “misinformation” may actually be more accurate than using the term “fake news” in our locality, Philippines. However, people are now widely using the term “Fake news”.

           Misinformation comes in different shapes and sizes that is made to look factual such as photo or video framed. Along with Wardle’s thoughts about the term misinformation, she outlined seven types of misinformation: 1. Satire, 2. False connections, 3. Misleading content, 4. False context, 5. Imposter content, and so on. All these types of fake news or misinformation requires a very experienced reader that has at the same time a critical mind capable of seeing through the lines.

          But then again, an abrupt change of the term might lead to more confusion in the near future however, we must learn to widen our perspective regarding this matter. Time is crucial and if we’re planning to truly understand what fake news it, we must understand the severity of this issue. The usage of fake news or misinformation, as long as that person knows that a certain kind of news circulates in media and printing press which contains deceitful content, is not enough. Using the term fake news around, with air quotes, will just get us to nowhere.

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Have you ever wondered why some people say “this is obviously a complete nonsense” yet, some people still cling to these false ideas? The question we have now, is that why do people believe in fake news?

          This is because as humans, we have a desire for information wherein this natural desire to know more information will most likely respond to any texts that agree with our wishes and desire. This can be further explained through the Arie Kruglanski’s article which tackles about the psychology of motivation. A recent research which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology posited that there are people who believe in fake news not because of their intelligence but because of the feeling of uniqueness.

          Everyone wants to feel unique and special and uses these feelings to differentiate themselves from others. We often gravitate toward information that supports our beliefs and ignore data that challenges our views.  And I, myself, am guilty of believing sometimes of these so-called fake news for these is somehow inevitable for all of us as humans whose actions are mostly affected and fueled by our emotions.

 

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          We have been hearing Mocha Uson’s name being linked to the term fake news for quite some time now. However, do we really know the reason for this? Who is Mocha Uson and why is she being related to fake news?

          Margaux “Mocha” Uson is an entertainer turned into a blogger, to a government official who is our Assistant Secretary for Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). She has more than 5 million subscribers in Facbook and 150, 000 followers on twitter. She stated in an interview before that she doesn’t want mainstream media and calls the press as “presstitues”, which is a combination of press and prostitutes.

          Although she has a government position she became a source of the fake news that are circulating in the cyberworld today. She has constantly being made fun of because of her posts and the things she shares on facebook and twitter. However, she claimed that she is actually a victim of fake news. But then, she had certain posts which contradicted to what she mentioned about being a victim of fake news.

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Photo source: Veda, R. (2017, January). Mocha Uson denies spreading ‘fake news’. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.pinoyexchange.com/discussion/825949/mocha-uson-denies-spreading-fake-news

          One of this was her post of a nine-year old rape victim wherein the victim was actually a Brazillian girl who was raped in the year 2014 in Altamira. According to her post, the girl was allegedly raped due to the drug problems in the Philippines but later on unpublished her post due to people bashing her for being a source of fake news. After that incident, she defended her side by saying that she did not really post it online, she just shared it and also denied that she mentioned that it happened in the Philippines.

          But the thing is that, whatever you post or share online is entitled to you. It was your choice to share something in the internet and knowing that you are a government official, you must then be wise enough to check the credibility of the news you are about to share. This is just one of the many examples of how Mocha Uson is really a source of fake news. I firmly believe that having her as our Assistant Secretary for Presidential Communications Operations Office is not healthy for our country. There are alot of people out there who is more suitable for that position so why only settle for someone like her? That is the question I would like to raise in our government if given a chance someday.

          There is also a question of accountability regarding Uson’s posts of websites whose contents contains a little to no information regarding the publisher of the article. The names of the members of the editorial team, news organizations must be known yet, in Uson’s shared websites that contains the article, these are mostly unknown.

          A good example of this is regarding the pinoytrending.altervista.org shared by Uson. It shows a link that says “Watch: Pinky Webb explains the side of President Duterte To the International Media”. however, didn’t actually show veteran television reporter Webb defending the President from the international media. Instead, it was linked to a video of a CNN report where Webb shared with CNN International what transpired during her one-on-one interview with the President.

           Some of Uson’s posts also have headlines, visuals, and captions that do not support content. This clearly shows how Mocha Uson is considered as a source of fake news, she may have been a victim of fake news before yet she, herself, has become the source nowadays.

 

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          The immediate widespread of “fake news” is not because of the evolution or development of media hence, it is because of the people who uses it. People have this instinct of posting any information they have for the sole purpose of letting other people view it. According to the recent statistics, 42% of adult Filipino’s are now using the Internet, 32% use the Internet for 3 hours or more everyday, 67% said that fake news is a serious Internet problem, 20% were undecided, 13% said it is not a serious Internet problem.

          We can therefore say that Filipino’s are very much aware on the prevalent issue regarding this misinformation in our community.  Sinan Aral, a management professor at MIT stated in his recent Science podcast, “False news diffused significantly farther, faster, broader, deeper in every category of information: politics, business, natural disasters, etc. and sometimes by an order of magnitude.” However, false political news is considered as the one who spreads the fastest.

          Yes, it is easy to say that “I can know what fake news is from a legitimate news” however, in reality even the smartest kid in town can actually be a victim of these fake news. The question now is how do you know if a certain news contains malign information?

I then listed some tips on how to be aware whether a certain article actually contains false information.

Check the credibility of the source: See to that the publishing site meets the academic citation standards. Look at the domain name as well for there are actually some websites wherein it is designed to look very similar to the original ones. I personally encountered situations such as this wherein I searched for a certain website and multiple search results were given to me. And the thing was, they were websites with different domain names and it was really confusing. Aside form checking the domain name, you can also check the about us section of the website.

Be mindful of the spelling and the quality: If you see lots of capitalizations or very dramatic usage of punctuation marks, it is the time for you to be judgemental. Let your mind do the work and halt your reading time for legitimate news sources have high standards when it comes to proofreading and grammar.

Look for the sources and citations: This is a common mistake for all of us, including me. There are several times wherein a certain news content showed up in our social media feed which is from a website known already for being a clickbait, however we still check it out. This kind of situation must be done with caution for websites like this must not be trusted. We must also keep in mind that credible journalism is anchored on facts and so, sources/ citations such as quotations and contributing sources regarding a complex issue is most likely to be in there.

Check if the news information is available on other sites: This is something which all of us must learn to do. Checking news on one site is not reassuring enough and so, we must learn to check for that specific news on other web portals. With the current trend in using photoshop and other photo editing sites, we can’t always believe what we see. It is therefore our responsibility as responsible users of the internet to check these sources and images and check if those things can also be seen from the other websites that are available.

          There are other tips in order to distinguish fake news from a legitimate one but nevertheless, we need to be responsible users of social media. Also, keep in mind that Facebook is another place where dubious stories get shared or promoted. So double check the site where it came from before hitting the “share” button. This reminder is not only for facebook but for all the available sites out there.

          In our society today, we must not only be curious for the sake of being one but rather, we should look for the truth in different angles. And as you read this blog, you now have the knowledge regarding what fake news is all about, how it spreads, and its implications in our society nowadays. Now that you know how to spot fake news, I hope that you will not fall for a clickbaits or other fake news. Yes, it is really hard not to be affected of fake news but by being  smart internet users, we must be aware of the possible dangers it can cause. Therefore, it is very significant that as users of media information, we must be vigilant of these things and encourage other people to practice being skeptical on the things we see in the internet.

 

“Society has gotten to the point where everybody has a right but nobody has a responsibility”- Country Thags

 

Sources:

Nagler, C. (2017). 4 Tips for Spotting a Fake News Story. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.summer.harvard.edu/inside-summer/4-tips-spotting-fake-news-story

Linder, S. (2017, November 12). How to Spot Fake News Can you tell the difference between fake and real news? Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/socially-relevant/201711/how-spot-fake-news

Arias, J. (2017, October 4). A List of Mocha Uson’s Fake News Posts. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from http://preen.inquirer.net/58185/a-list-of-mocha-usons-fake-news-posts

Saludo, R. (2018, February 15). Fake news in PH: Here’s the real story. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from http://www.manilatimes.net/fake-news-ph-heres-real-story/380295/

Wardle, C. (2017, February 16). Fake news. It’s complicated. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://firstdraftnews.org/fake-news-complicated/

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