‘Information literacy’ best way to combat ‘fake news’

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InterAksyon editor-in-chief Roby Alampay at the Senate hearing on fake news. (photo by by Geremy Pintolo, PhilStar)

MANILA, Philippines — Institutionalizing information literacy from as early as when children are first exposed to television, smartphones and the internet is the best way to combat the proliferation of misinformation, or “fake news.”

This was the contention of Roby Alampay, InterAksyon editor-in-chief, who was among the senior journalists invited to the hearing on fake news of the Senate committee on public information and mass media on Wednesday, October 4.

The hearing saw journalists come face-to-face with pro-administration bloggers who bill themselves as the “alternative” to the supposed “fake news” produced by mainstream media but who themselves have been accused of being purveyors of false information.

“One thing that’s obvious at this hearing is nobody is agreeing on one definition of fake news,” Alampay observed.

In contrast, he said, “One thing I hear that we all agree on (is that) we want our free expression. We want our (social media) platforms.”

Vera Files’ Ellen Tordesillas agreed that what counts for fake news remains “vague” although she did suggest a definition – “falsehood masquerading as truth.”

In fact, she and ABS-CBN’s Chi Gonzales objected to the phrase, saying the more appropriate term should be “misinformation.”

While acknowledging the harassment and threats journalists have been subjected to on social media, Alampay said “we are fair game.”

Tanggap namin ang (We accept) criticism. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t accept that as part of our reality,” he said.

He also acknowledged that media make mistakes but stressed that when this happens, “inaayos at humihingi naman ng tawad (these are corrected and apologies are made),” citing his own personal experience.

Gonzales also pointed to self-regulatory mechanisms, such as the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaser sa Piipinas, that address any wrongdoing by mainstream media.

Tordesillas said the bigger problem was disinformation from government officials, which she said ought to be punished.