August 30, 2021 (6:26 PM)

4 min read


INFORM THE MISINFORMED. Rappler’s head of the digital strategy, Ms. Gemma B. Mendoza, tackled different types of misinformation and disinformation last August 27, live via Zoom. Photo credits to Alfonso Miguel Cordoviz

Advising students how to practice fact-checking on social media properly, Rappler writer and researcher Vernise Tantuco said on a webinar to “focus on the thoughts of the claim, not on the person.”

The webinar organized by Rappler’s civic engagement arm MovePH, in partnership with the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sining at Komunikasyon (SINIKOM), aimed to equip students on how to fact check and fight disinformation to promote media and literacy in this time of the pandemic. 

Key speakers include Rappler writers and researchers Vernise Tantuco and Pauline Macaraeg, along with Rappler’s Head of the Digital Strategy Gemma B. Mendoza.

Tantuco stressed that objectivity is critical, especially in dealing with facts, to focus only on the message sent without attacking the person.

According to the journalist, respect and compassion remain vital for approaching people who linger with false information since “real-world relationships outside the digital space are necessary to get us through this infodemic.”

Safe space for verified information

Rappler’s Chief of Digital Strategy Gemma Mendoza elaborated on the reality of social media nowadays, where truth is barely existent and lies cover information.

“The reality about this social space is not everything in it is verified. Within that space, what you see is not necessarily true,” Mendoza said.

Many studies have shown that within social media, fake news and rumors spread faster than true stories due to factors such as novelty and emotional appeal that trigger netizens to click and spread the information.

She exemplified Senator Leila de Lima and party-list representative Sarah Elago who have received repercussions for being victims of numerous false claims online. 

“You [would] see a lot of posts that are false claims about certain personalities and activists. This hateful language online against activists is creating an environment that is justifying violence,”  the Digital Strategy chief expressed. 

“So that’s really one very troubling thing about this space because fake news has an impact, lies have an impact. That is affecting our own perception of reality, creating an illusion that something’s true when even if it’s not,” she added.

Mendoza quoted Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels on the law of propaganda, saying, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.”

Such a phenomenon is a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the truth, thus the need for challenging it. 

“Particularly in a crisis, it’s very important to have a space where verified information thrives because information is very critical to preventing disasters, to preparing and responding to the needs on the ground and recovering faster,” explained Mendoza. 

Hence, tackling misinformation and disinformation is equally paramount in the context of our need for information as it “is needed for us to make decisions, make lucid and relevant and timely decisions. Important decisions in our lives, in our country.”

Furthermore, she emphasized that students could lead the combat of infodemic by broadening their information diet.

“Make sure you access credible sources directly. Be aware of any attempts to manipulate information and learn to detect dubious claims. Just be wise in your use of digital media,” Mendoza told students. 

Effective ways to help spread awareness about this problem are by reporting fake news to trusted news organizations for verification like Rappler’s MovePH and calling out platforms for inaction and abuses.

Digital tools for fact-checking

With the increase of digital tools on the internet, Pauline Macaraeg urged students to use the available technological resources online in fact-checking social media posts professionally. 

Among the tools she mentioned were Reverse image search, video-verification application InVid, web archive, and other geolocation tools. 

In the spot check exercise, she also reminded students about the key factors in fact-checking information online: looking for primary sources such as eyewitness accounts, scrutinizing the claimed source, and finding corroborating evidence. 

Different schools and universities participated in the webinar held August 27 via Zoom, including Holy Name University, Cavite State University, and University of San Carlos in Cebu.

End the silence of the gagged!

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