A news feed suddenly pops up on your social media account, so bad and disgusting that it bursts your impulse to share it right away or click the “angry” emoticon on Facebook. Think again, because sharing and liking hoax news spur unending cycle that makes it go viral.
In the Philippines, knocking out fake news is like pushing back a tsunami that a Senate inquiry was called for to help curb the proliferation of malicious and misleading information that wears the shoes that belong to the truth.
It’s hard to believe that Filipinos know fake news exists, so alarming and ubiquitous on the world wide web. The media in the country have to constantly contend with online trolls as their articles that do not support or agree to the powers-that-be are always tagged as “fake news”, whereas fly-by-night and anonymously-hosted websites have a great foothold on many, if not majority, of Filipino netizens. You ask why? Because the lure of fake news is stronger than the truth, even when a certain information is already close to the borderline of illusion and bigotry. In this case, the role of the mass media, referred to as the fourth branch of the state as it can expose abuse of power and corruption in the Philippine government is undermined.
In case you were misled by some rumors that spread like wildfire this week, take some time to read what’s in our list and stay informed:
1 Cebu-based parish priest impregnates daughters of his associate pastor
This disturbing news posted by http://rondabalita.news has been seen by more than 185,000 people and shared a lot of times since March 7, 2018. It was so upsetting that many had to react:
(User name withheld) March 7, 2018 at 10:12 pm “Sobra Sobrang kahihiyan ang mga ginagawa ng mga PARI ngayon! Dapat sa mga PARING Rapist Maniac at Malilibog ay putulan ng TARUGO!”
(Concerned Christian) March 8, 2018 at 10:44 am “Ito actually ang ipinaglaban ng ating bayani na si Jose Rizal. Alam niya na ang Catholic Church ay puno ng kasinungalingan at kalokohan. Basahin sana natin ang biblia para makita natin na pinapa ikot ikot lang tayo ng mga pari ba yan.”
(Arl) March 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm “Manyak ka Padre.”
The story claims that a priest (name withheld) from the town of Alcantara in Cebu raped and impregnated his pastor’s daughters,14 and 16 years old. Reportedly, the mother of the two young girls confirmed that her daughters were three and five months pregnant to the priest. And that the rape incident happened “sometime in October last year”.
The report said that the priest was nabbed by the police after his parish church “failed to penalize” him; and that he threatened the two girls that he would “kill” their family if they report the matter to the authorities.
Fact check: This is exactly a year-old hoax story. It was first reported last March 2017. The town of Alcantara had already quashed this malicious information last year.
The Filipino Times also found out the photo used by the website was taken from Sunstar (a news daily in Cebu) dated August 08, 2015.
The man covered with black cloth is not a priest, but a certain police officer who was caught sniffing shabu inside a drug den in Dumanjug, Cebu. The photo was originally shot by Alan Tangcawan.
2 “Aquino nagalit dahil papalitan ang NAIA ng ‘Manila International Airport?”
A headline claiming that former President Benigno Aquino III was disappointed over a proposal to change the name of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) into Manila International Airport was only fake news.
This prompted negative reactions against the former president; one of them said, “Sino sya para magalit. [P]anahon na para mabura ang mga [A]quino sa [P]ilipinas.”
The information was published by www.dutertefilipino.info and posted by the Facebook page “Duterte Worldwide Supporters”.
As of this writing, the Facebook post had more than 500 reactions and 2,000 shares.
Fact check: Aquino has been mum about the proposal, even if an online petition, which was rolled out on www.change.org last year, had already received more than 39,000 supporters to rename NAIA.
Only the Philippine Congress, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives, can enact a law to change its name. If you listen carefully to the video embedded on the website, it contains no reaction from Aquino.
3 Even Richard Gomez has fallen prey to sharing fake news
Actor and now Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez has also fallen prey to a piece of information he thought was legit. He shared a fake story from altervista blog tha claims Queen Elizabeth II has called President Rodrigo Duterte a “brave man.” As per memebuster.net, a website that tackles fake news in the Philippines, the blog even mentioned that the BBC Channel reported it, which was not true.
Gomez’ Twitter post dated February 21 caught the attention of the many netizens, including Duterte supporters, and called him out to verify the legitimacy of information before sharing it to his followers online.
Fact check: Both the original source britana.altervista.org and the blog mentioned above that reposted the news were already suspended.
After receiving flak, the actor’s post had since been deleted on his Twitter account.
4 “Pinakahihintay ng lahat! On March 19 BBM will be the new vice!”
Again, the website www.dutertefilipino.info published this information this week, misleading its subscribers about a political issue in the Philippines which the Supreme Court has neither even started to hear nor decide as yet.
Fact check: SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), ordered the camps of Vice President Leni Robredo and her rival, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, to observe the sub judicial rule in the ongoing vice presidential electoral protest.
“Considering that the revision process is about to commence, the Tribunal directs both protestant and protestee to observe the sub judice rule,” said the PET.
The PET issued the sub judicial rule reminder a week after both the Marcos and Robredo camps publicly traded barbs last month over the supposed delay in the electoral protest. No final date has been set by PET to hear the electoral fraud filed by Marcos against Robredo.
Sad but true from Ethel Booba: ‘Libre ang Google, ‘wag kayong tanga’
All that it takes to fight rumors is using common sense, cross-checking a few facts, and then clicking on the ‘delete’ button. This was the message of comedienne Ethel Booba when she was asked to comment on the proliferation of fake news during her guesting with Ruffa Mae Quinto on Gandang Gabi Vice (GGV) in ABS CBN. With Twitter handle @IamEthylGabison, Ethel Booba is considered an influencer on the Twitterverse, with more the 1.2 million followers.
Although her tone was light and funny on GGV, she took a jab on clueless netizens and the purveyors of hoaxes. The comedienne, who also published a book titled “Charotism” (from the slang word “charot” which means just kidding) said her wit cannot handle people who easily believe on everything that they see in the virtual world. She advised netizens to use Google to verify information so as not to be duped.
She said: “Actually, libre ang Google. Samantalahin ninyo. Gano’n.”
Anonymously-hosted websites are most often the creators of fake news and rumors, but it is you, the social media user, who chooses to forward or delete a message. Scammers are the only people who benefit from fake viral posts.
They know which way the Internet traffic is headed and what information it seeks and they can set traps for social media users.
This may be in the form of false web pages or apps whose only function is to install a malware into the user’s system and harvest his or her personal information.