A note to the would-be readers of this essay
In a way, this is a draft for a wholly different essay, so what I'm aiming for isn't people to like this work, but as much feedback as possible. This is an informative causal chain essay that I made for school, but I'm planning to rewrite everything in a high-school-friendly style to inform high school students about fake news.
I'm already aware that nobody would probably read this in the state that it is now, so I'd appreciate it if you give me tips on how to make this less academic and drab. At the same time, I'd also appreciate comments on how I write academic and drab essays. You know, the logical validity of everything, the writing devices only journalists ever touch, the in-text citations (I used APA citation style, by the way), and all those fancy stuff.
If you do know something about fake news, please help me out by sharing what you know about fake news or about any of the fake news incidents I cited here, like in the Jakarta elections. I'd like them even more with sources if applicable. Lastly, if you happen to be Filipino, I urge you -- please do share your insights on this. I'm writing this for a modern Filipino audience in a modern Filipino context, and what concerns them may just as well concern you, too.
To the people that know me, this is where I disappeared to. I'm moving to non-fiction writing now, because I'm no longer enjoy fiction writing. My own stories can't live up to my standards anymore no matter how hard I try. Maybe some people may like what I attempted to do, but I don't settle for what's just okay in my standards. Besides, I think this site could use a bit more of these kinds of works.
The Roots and The Fruits of Fake News
“Fake news” is a term that has been recently popularized by many things, like the now-US President Donald Trump in his speeches and tweets against major news outlets like CNN during his presidential campaign. Trump used the word with great frequency during that period that it resulted in Collins Dictionary adding a dictionary entry for it, which defines it as “fake, often sensational information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.” (Wheatstone, et. al, 2017)
In the Philippines, the fire of fake news was recently fueled last August by the trending of the hashtag “#FireMocha” The Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary tweeted a post featuring a picture of an Inquirer article of the headline “’Best intel cop’ killed during third drug bust of the day.” The tweet was accompanied by the caption “CALLING LENI, BAM, Trillanes at Hontiveros Kelan niyo dadalawin ito?” The only problem with the tweet was that the Inquirer article featured was outdated, being made a year ago. Netizens noticed it and called Uson out for it. (Rappler Social Media Team, 2017)
These are good to know, but what does fake news have to do with any of us ordinary Filipino citizens?
With money or beliefs as some of the driving forces, fake news is created, and when fake news is created, spread, and not checked, it causes its viewers to form misled opinions.
The reasons behind fake news
As mentioned before, fake news article headlines are grabbing to the eye of the passing viewer, making it very tempting to click on. This is where the money comes in. Because of this, the clickbait nature of fake news attracts a lot of traffic, which in turn attracts advertisers, and in doing so, advertisement revenue. This may be seen as a lucrative source of income for people looking to earn cash.
Dollars were hauled in by the tens of thousands by Macedonian teenagers through their posting of partisan fake news articles for American audiences hungry for election stories last 2016. (Alcott and Gentzkow, 2017) One of them said that he earned a thousand and eight hundred euros – or about PHP107,741 -- through one month of making fake news articles, but he claimed that his peers have gained thousands per day. He also said that this was all for making money and not for a political cause: “Teenagers in our city don’t care how Americans vote. They are only satisfied that they make money and can buy expensive clothes and drinks!” (Kirby, 2016)
The other compelling motive is ideology. Some people behind fake news want to change how people think through fabricated events and stories. This is different from propaganda, which poses arguments and ideas instead of fake events to the public to persuade them to root for a cause. (Townsend, 2017) Khairul Ashar, a co-founder of the hoax-debunking initiative Turn Back Hoax, told about the fake news surrounding the 2016 elections in Jakarta. “Some groups want to change philosophical foundation of the country, and in the name of freedom of speech they use hoaxes in social media to gain followers,” he said. (BBC, 2017)
In the Jakarta elections, governor candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (also known as “Ahok”) was the target of fake news. He is Christian and of Chinese ethnicity, which, considering the anti-Christian and anti-Chinese history of Indonesia, makes him the prime target of the more extreme Indonesian conservatives who believe that only Muslims should have the top government positions. (Kwok, 2017)
The Birth of Fake News
With either of these compelling motives, fake news is made. These kinds of articles are characterized by attention-grabbing, clickbait headlines (titles with all uppercase letters, excessive use of exclamation points, and bold, but often misleading statements), altered images or videos, awkward layouts, erroneous language, copycat URLs, and emotionally manipulative content. (Filucci, 2017; Titcomb and Carson, 2017) In other words, it’s all about unprofessionalism and deceit.
In the case of Ahok Purnama, fake news attacked him in various forms.
The first city-owned grand mosque in Jakarta was inaugurated earlier this year, but some people thought it looked like a cross. This was leverage enough for some people to put forth the idea that Purnama was trying to do Christianization. Another was a photo taken of Purnama shaking hands with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Despite being taken by the official photographer of the president, it was flagged as a hoax. People against Purnama said that this photo was fake because a king shaking hands with a blasphemer of Islam goes against the law of Islam. This cited Purnama’s being charged of blasphemy in the late 2016. Lastly, an edited video of a speech of Purnama’s was uploaded to Facebook and became viral. For this, he was accused of disparaging the Quran. (BBC, 2017)
The question still remains, though. How does fake news affect us Filipinos?
In one case in the Philippines, fake news came in the form of fake pro-Duterte quotes.
The effect of fake news
On the 23rd of September just this year, Yen Makabenta, a journalist at the Manila Times, put out an opinion piece last lauding the US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley for supporting President Duterte. He referred to a quote from the ambassador:
“The Philippines is suffocating. We must give President Duterte the space to run his nation. We must respect their independence … It is not in our purview to decide administrative issues for the Philippines…That is the job of the president.”
"Destructive forces have never given the Duterte administration enough space to jump-start his programs of government; they did not even afford him the proverbial honeymoon period…. Now, they have calibrated their plot to ouster movements and this is just the second year of his presidency.”
However, the US embassy press denied these remarks. It was later found out that this article and the quotes the journalist based his piece upon was fake. The website that published the article on this, aljazeeranews-tv.com, was also found out to be a counterfeit of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news outlet. (Hapal, 2017)
Although the Al Jazeera Philippine correspondent Jamela Alisha Alindogan, on the same day, called out the source website to be fake, many people still fell for it.
The veteran journalist was not the only one that was manipulated by this fake article: even government officials and big online personalities got invested in it. DILG Undersecretary for Legislative Liaison and Special Concerns Emily Padilla shared a photo of the quote with a caption praising the ambassador, “She nailed it!” Despite being met by comments sarcastically calling the post out for spreading fake news, it received more than six thousand shares. Data of the social media monitoring program Crowdtangle also showed that this article was also shared by Mocha Uson and Sass Rogando Sasot, both of which are prominent online pro-Duterte personalities. However, according to Hapal’s article on this situation, these two posts “have been deleted as of writing.” (Hapal, 2017)
The largest group of victims of the article was the Filipino people. Crowdtangle showed that even before Makabenta published his article, many pro-Duterte Facebook pages with large follower bases have shared the fake article. Makabenta’s column, which garnered the support of many Duterte supporters online, has been spread through many social media accounts with a combined follower base of 12, 162, 851. (Hapal, 2017)
Whether it is motivated by money, or by beliefs, fake news causes us to form misinformed (and often emotionally charged) opinions about a certain matter, and it only serves to exacerbate the growing conflicts between Filipinos.
In the probe on fake news, Senator Grace Poe said, "Fake news is the e-version of the budol-budol, which many of our people unable to distinguish fact from fiction fall victims to. It is not even farfetched that in the future fake news can trigger wars… If fake news is not challenged, it will create lynch mobs out of certain people turning them into an army of character assassins who can be unleashed with just one meme to destroy an idea, a person or an institution.” (Viray, 2017)
Senator Grace Poe said that if fake news goes unpunished, even persons of power would be encouraged to resort to that level to maintain their image. (Viray, 2017)
That may spread corruption and widen the rift between government and the people, which are detrimental to our democracy.
Our country is a divided country. Filipinos rarely seem to agree with each other in issues in politics: it’s often the “dilaws” in one corner, and the “Dutertards” opposite the former in these daily online flame wars that have been splitting friendships ever since the divisive 2016 Presidential Elections.
If we are to unite the Philippines again, we need to be able to put our trust in each other, and that only begins with honesty. Encourage the presence of only truth in our information. Be vigilant for any signs of fake news in social media. Check the facts and the credibility of the news site in question before sharing any potentially fake news articles. Do not let mere make-believe stories plunge our country into chaos.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal of Economic Perspectives,Volume 31(2), 211-236. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/faken...
BBC. (2017, April 18). How fake news and hoaxes have tried to derail Jakarta's election. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39176350
Filucci, S. (2017, March 20). How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy). Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-spot...
Hapal, D. (2017, September 24). Manila Times columnist falls for fake news. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/1...
Kwok, Y. (2017, January 6). Where Memes Could Kill: Indonesia's Worsening Problem of Fake News. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://time.com/4620419/indonesia-fake-news-ahok-...
R. (2017, August 22). SOCIAL MEDIA 'We deserve better': #FireMocha tops local Twitter trends. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/1...
Titcomb, J., & Carson, J. (2017, November 14). Fake news: What exactly is it – and can it really swing an election? Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news...
Townsend, K. (2017, June 15). Fake News: Methods, Motivations and Countermeasures. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.securityweek.com/fake-news-methods-mot...
Viray, P. (2017, October 4). 'Fake news cultivates a culture of lying'. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/10/04/1745...
Wheatstone, R., Lake, E., & Cambridge, E. (2017, November 2). SO MUCH FAKE NEWS' What is fake news? List of Donald Trump examples and why it’s word of the year. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2188911/fake-news-w...