What we can do with fake news

I came across this news from Philippine Star last week.

Pangilinan wants Facebook penalized over fake news

I also support the senator’s initiative to stop the rampant spreading of misleading fake news and memes in social media. It irks me to see how gullible Filipinos are these days with what they see online. Not just because it’s trending, it real.

One night, our mom was telling us a story about what she read on Facebook. It was about President Rodrigo Duterte’s anecdote late last year that God spoke to him on the plane. She fondly recalls that it was in fact the pilot who spoke to the President; little did she know that she was reading a satire site.

Facebook’s move and what we can do

The social media giant has been doing their part to combat the trending of false information.

In their Newsroom, they have addressed their next steps on these hoaxes and fake news sites. They will soon notify users and readers right away if a post had been flagged for dispute.

Facebook’s message that appears in your News Feed

Prior to fake news headlining in 2016, we can already report if a content is not appropriate in Facebook. BuzzFeed shared a step-by-step how-to guide to let Facebook know about this. We can even block the Facebook page or user who shared it, which comes very handy! (And if you don’t want to see an ad in your news feed, you can also tell Facebook that it appears too often).

Consumers of media

I believe that we can start by educating the people on how to report fake news or at the very least, content (blog, “news”, photo, or video) that is not appropriate in social media for everyone’s consumption. I do this all the time.

And it’s not just fake news. If we think a video shared on Facebook is too graphic or too violent for children, or if it’s showing an act to harm others or to harm oneself, we have all the right to report it.

(When reporting a Facebook post, one of the selections is “ It’s threatening, violent or suicidal”, and it offers help and support to the subject or sharer).

News literacy — a reader’s ability to discern credible news (The Verge)
Check if it’s a satire site.

As a readers, we must learn how to be news literate; we can start by:

  1. Checking the source. 
    If it’s from an unknown source, perhaps it’s an opinion posted in a blog. Check if it’s a satire site. It can also be from a very convincing domain name posing as legit news agency. Or it can also pose as a bank’s website but it’s totally fake.
  2. Checking the author. 
    Google the author’s name. See if he/she has any published work online. Look for pictures. Check the background and investigate whether the author actually wrote it.
  3. Checking the intent of the headline and the image. 
    If the image shown in Facebook has a play button in the center, it invites readers to play it when in fact it’s not a video at all. 
    (Not everything that has a play button is a video. It can be edited in Photoshop or other mobile apps.) See how the title was written. 
    Example: “Top 10 Corrupt Senators — you won’t believe who’s number 2!” 
    It ignites our curiosity which can be anybody’s weakness.
  4. Beware of clickbaits. 
    These are shared links with a title or picture that draws attention just to generate clicks and website visits. These sites may contain advertisements; and they can earn monetary amount with the volume of clicks and visits.
  5. Checking the content verbatim. 
    I’ve done this before. I saw a “news” on Facebook with thousands of shares and comments. I copied a portion of it, one or two sentences. I googled that snippet in double quotes [by doing this, Google searches for the whole snippet (or making it as a string), runs a search word for word]. Then I found a match! Another site had that same content. Both sites seem to have the same intent, basing it from their posts. Why have two sites? To reach more people (to influence) and possibly seeing it more often in Google Search Results.
Site 1 showing the content in all caps.
Site 2 showing the same content.

Don’t shoot the messenger

As consumers of media, we should all be concerned on how these tools— internet and social media — are being abused.

Apparently, we’re not the only one suffering from this. It’s becoming a disease. Hilary Clinton calls it epidemic. According to a report, fake news during U.S. election last year had 8.7 million shares and comments. In Germany, there have been misinformation online on fake crimes allegedly committed by refugees. Turkish government is also doing their part to stop pro-leftist content on Twitter. Google on the other hand is investing on a fact-checking tool. States can also report removal requests on Twitter.

It’s just right for the Philippines to do our own unbiased monitoring.

GMA News launched an online campaign last year to call out fake news and memes. They are encouraging the public to comment #HindiTama (nor right or incorrect in English) in hoaxes online to fight disinformation in social media.

Clearly, there are ways to do stop it. I am not into penalizing the platform, but rather, let’s go straight to the source. As these fake news happen here and overseas, these social media sites, they are likely to monitor their content. Yes, it’s their responsibility to regulate and they will take action. We Filipinos, need to do the same.

These are media channels that we use on a daily basis and there will be more in the future. We need to have a local system that can analyze and investigate the accuracy of these online contents. We can also find out who owns these domain names and possibly file a report to their host or domain registrar if they’re violating anything.

As for the Senate hearing with Facebook executives… let’s wait and see.

More: How to Stop the Spread of Fake News (NY Times)