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Be information literate!

Straight Talk
by Nimfa L. Estrellado 

In the political arena, there’s a lot of talk bantered about these days here in the Philippines regarding the so called mainstream media promoting “fake news.” Stories presented by information outlets, some say are not true, are referred to as “fake news.” Those then hearing the “fake news” are led to believe something is true when it is not. If a story is indeed “fake news,” then simply stated, a lie is being promoted.

Grace Poe: As a legislator, while I am concerned about the pernicious effects of the proliferation of fake news that can destroy not just a person’s reputation but institutions as well, I am in no way in favor of any measure that aims to suppress our freedom of speech or expression.

According to Grace Poe what she intend is to come up with a law that will increase the penalties for cyber libel caused by fake news and make public officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, hired as a consultant or adviser, paid or not, criminally liable for posting fake news online where malice is presumed.

Poe also said freedom of expression ends when libel begins. By way of special law, it would be wise to make it a public policy to deem fake news a malum prohibitum offense.

I remember how different things were when I grew up. The radio played music or aired comedy shows for the better part of each hour leaving only a few minutes to broadcast the news, sports and weather. We had a weekly community newspaper and one daily paper from the nearby city. The test pattern started and ended the television day which was filled mostly with live programs and commercials. Often we didn’t even know about events that occurred in another geographic area for several days.

Now we have twenty-four hour television with an almost unlimited number of channels that offer breaking news for crimes and events that are occurring live throughout the entire world. Global newspapers can be found quickly through simple internet clicks. We have become accustomed to having instant access to any information we want or need.

In psychology we learn that opinions are merely thoughts and it is therefore easy to find differing opinions on any topic. Both thoughts and opinions can change quickly, especially if new information is available.

I think that it must be difficult for media sources today considering all the expectations for them to provide interesting twenty-four hour programming, If a channel’s mandate is to focus on politics, it must come up with guests and topics that will attract the viewer no matter how little news is generated by politicians that day or week. As a result, the anchors and guests have to take what they have, repeat it and “spin” it so that people will continue to tune in.

Think about what might happen if you and your friends were sitting together for hours at a time talking about politics. After the most recent current event is recounted, there might be some “What if... “ statements or speculation about why that occurred or even what might happen next. It wouldn’t take long until “perhaps” is quoted as fact.

Because the internet is not regulated, anyone can post anything they want. Thoughts, opinions and not necessarily truth.

Here’s some advice that might help you to sort things out:

1. Don’t assume that everything you read, hear or see is accurate.

2. Keep in mind the fact that demand for news and continuous broadcasting has created a vacuum that needs to be filled by the media.

3. Let go! Most of what is discussed or written is not in your sphere of control. You don’t have to listen to or read everything that is available and you sure don’t have to fix things.

4. Remember to make healthy choices and balance your life instead of focusing only on the news reports.

Apparently, our mainstream media and major search engines and even Facebook want to censor politically right-leaning speech. That’s interesting considering that the whole idea of the Internet was to foster free-speech, expression and free-thinking ideas - well, I guess now it still does as long as those messages are left-leaning, politically correct, and progressive.

I’ve been using social media as a marketing tool since 2011. Back in 2011, as a person new to the circumstance I fell victim to many fake/hoax/satire news shared on social media. Every once in a while I would see a post streaming down my timeline with a headline that reads like the following,

“Jackie Chan dead 2017 : Actor killed by celebrity death hoax”.

According to reports Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who has been caught spreading inaccurate and wrong information on her Facebook page and blog even after she was given a government post, made the claim during the Senate hearing on fake news on Wednesday, October 4. Despite repeated allegations of spreading fake news, Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson claimed she is a “victim” of such practice, too.

Surely it’s easy to tell fake news from real news. Be information literate. If you’re sure if the news is fake, move on. Don’t automatically believe what you just read and pass it on. Share responsibly.

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