Disinformation and misinformation

Published August 13, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

Certainly, every thinking Filipino now realizes that we are confronted with a “tsunami of disinformation,” a growing threat to our national survival. Thus, while policy makers and lawmakers are called upon to prepare frameworks in prioritizing our legislative agenda, not much attention is given to this cancer that continues to affect not only the implementation of policies but the life of every Filipino.

It will be remembered that two sections in the Declaration of Principles in our 1987 Constitution deal with the “vital role of communication and information in nation-building” (Section 24) and “full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest” (Section 28). This recognition of the critical place of communication should remind our lawmakers of the need to provide a responsive policy environment.
It will also be remembered (as it is too soon to forget) the effect of the disinformation threat on our recent electoral process. Analysts had cited its impact on the US elections and our own recent past election and on how Cambridge Analytica had assisted in rebranding the Marcos family during the last political campaign.

We remember how the downgrading of Philippine history as a subject since 2014 had resulted in our lack of understanding of our past as it had been given to us in “bits and pieces.”

The “purging of libraries of subversive martial law accounts of the martial law era had likewise caused the distortion of our students’ understanding of what really happened during those days. The recent controversial “Maid of Malacanang” film did not help in illuminating but only in confusing the viewer.

Thus, it is important that social media (Facebook, Tiktok, Twitter, YouTube, among others) be made aware of information on their data rights, transparency concerns in political advertising as well as policies in combating hate speech and cyberlibel. The growing number of people accused of the latter is alarming.
Guidelines for internet users should be provided by colleges and universities and other training centers. Among others, they include media and information literacy (MIL) courses which would enable users to verify facts, distinguish false from accurate information and assist in its spread.

Thus, government must endeavor to require the Department of Education and the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) to give priority attention to these concerns: training of teachers in MIL, fact-checking, and critical thinking.

Policy makers and media executives must address concerns that had been with us for decades – issues on safety of journalists and media imbalance. We have struggled with threats to the safety of our media workers. Not too long ago we were on the top five as one of the most dangerous places for a journalist.
It is also a fact that a large percentage of local media content especially of print media is primarily devoted to urban news. There is limited coverage of foreign, provincial and rural news. While radio and television had shown a more balanced coverage, they could make a greater impact on educating and enlightening our people, with upgraded quality of content. Every news gatherer must be an investigative journalist.

The challenge therefore to the growing disinformation and misinformation must be addressed not only by media owners, private media councils, and the academe but by policy makers who should be able to provide timely regulation on ownership, media content and balance, as well as policies that would address threats of disinformation, libel, and safety of journalists.

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