Number coding and fake news

Published May 20, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Inigo Roces


Iñigo S. Roces

Over the past couple of months — due to the heat of the campaign season — the propagation of fake news has risen to an all-time high. It’s somewhat expected as this has been one of the most hotly-debated elections yet and with each side’s staunch supporters eager to make gains, even if it’s at the expense of their opponents.

Its propagation is also riding high on the back of the gig economy where more and more individuals are saying goodbye to traditional office jobs in favor of work-at-home arrangements more often than not reliant on social media.

As such, any budding web-based entrepreneur looking to become a blogger or influencer will tackle any potential news story, make dangerous assumptions, and put it all in a quickly-composed graphic to share on their social media page. It’s all in the hope of getting easy shares, likes, and subscriptions. These in turn grow their presence online, making it easier for them to approach advertisers and charge for their clout.

Even the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which has been toiling away to reduce traffic has not been immune from the spread of fake news. After all, any news about traffic in the metro is big news, particularly if it affects how people get to work.

As the economy has been opening up, the subject of worsening traffic has come up, and more controversially, how to curtail it. Even though it was just a proposal, the subject of two-day number coding (where one’s vehicle is banned on roads twice a week based on their plate number) has been shared like it’s a certainty. One of the most rabidly-shared posts claimed it would take effect on May 16, 2022. It’s even accompanied by an official looking graphic, complete with the MMDA’s logos, typical infographic format, and social media accounts.

To be clear, number coding is still once a week based on your plate number, and only from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The MMDA has never made such an announcement and encourages motorists to double check their information and be vigilant about fake news on this topic.

Unfortunately, this fake news has managed to fool quite a lot of motorists. Some have even gone so far as following the fake two-day schedule with alternate cars already.

It only goes to show just how pervasive the spread of fake news has become. Even news on traffic — which should be colorless and without any political bias — has been tainted by this plague.

So what do we do now that even news that people least expect to be faked become victim? Double check your sources. Before taking it as fact, check first with reputable news sources like Manila Bulletin or with MMDA’s website or official social media accounts.

Analyze logically as well. Major changes to traffic like these require a long lead time and are unlikely to be implemented within just a few days of their announcement. If such were to be actually implemented, expect official announcements on all major news outlets, a possible week-long adjustment or break-in period, and new signage along major thoroughfares.

And finally, give the MMDA a little credit. They’re not heartless officers eager to pull everyone over to take their licenses. Their objective is to improve traffic flow. That includes finding the most amicable solution towards that.

(Iñigo S. Roces is the MB Motoring Editor)