I scroll through my Facebook feed and see an outrageous article posted by my friend claiming that Etta Rosales, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said: “Duterte should not use airplanes… Kawawa naman sila (Mautes), they should be treated with care, compassion and dignity.”
I sigh in disappointment. The piece was written by “PhilNews.XYZ,” a website that reeks of bad journalism and fake news. Apart from the bad grammar and misleading titles, it claims to be a “voice against biased media,” but its official FB profile picture — a photo of President Duterte — contradicts this.
No day goes by without some form of fake news being shared to my feed. It disturbs me how easy it is to stumble on “alternative facts.” I’ve also seen my friends comment on articles without them knowing these were from a satire news site, like “Adobo Chronicles.” There are even websites that deliberately spread fake news for profit or a personal agenda, like “Mocha Uson Blog.” It’s just so ridiculous how fake news is so prevalent.
The situation has gotten so bad that fake news has entered our own government. Mocha Uson, assistant secretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, is notorious for deliberately spreading and creating fake news.
I cannot overemphasize the number of times I’ve seen her spew some kind of fake news, from posting a picture of the Honduras police force and claiming it was the Philippine Army, to sharing a news article that says 95 nations in the Universal Period Review of the United Nations believed there were no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Who in their right mind would appoint someone with a history of spreading lies to a position that is supposed to fight fake news and effectively communicate factual information to the masses? How ironic.
According to the World Economic Forum, fake news spreads mainly because of a confirmation bias. People are more likely to share news or information that coincides with their own beliefs, and don’t care where it came from. They also don’t bother to check if it’s actually true. The only thing they care about is that the news caters to their own opinion. They don’t care if what they’re spreading are lies.
This sudden explosion of misinformation and fake news is of great concern to me. My parents taught me as a child the value of honesty. Whose parents didn’t? In school, telling the truth is mandatory. In communities, people who tell the truth are looked up to, and those who tell lies are ostracized and ridiculed. I am not the only one who grew up with this perception. Haven’t all Filipinos been taught the basic principle that lying is bad and telling the truth is good? This is why I am appalled by the rise of fake news.
I am deeply saddened that to many people, no line separates fake news from real news. I question why we are being divided and pitted against each other by lies. I question why the value of honesty that we were once taught and we once had is no longer present. And more importantly, I question why we Filipinos continue to let this happen.
Social media is a tool to spread fake news, but it is also a platform to state the truth. Thus, I admire those persons and groups who speak up despite the risk of unwarranted hate. I encourage everyone to stand up, to be relevant, and to be vigilant.
I especially encourage the youth to not be afraid to call out lies. We may be young but we are not irrelevant. It was us who took to the streets clamoring for justice when Ferdinand Marcos was wrongfully buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It can also be us who will fight and make a difference against fake news.
Don Randolf A. Sanchez, 16, studies at Ateneo Senior High School and “isn’t afraid to speak his mind.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.