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Fake news falling out of favor

/ 05:10 AM October 12, 2018

Despite the proliferation of disinformation online, especially on social media, the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) believes we will soon see less “fake news,” as Filipinos are becoming more aware of the dangers of sharing such falsehoods.

“There’s a process by which behavioral change happens … called Akab—awareness, knowledge, attitude, behavior,” said Ritzi Ronquillo, PRSP president, citing a theory on how such change occurs. “Awareness, I think, is gaining ground. People are now aware that there is ‘fake news.’ Attitude change comes after. If you’re knowledgeable about what constitutes ‘fake news,’ then your attitude starts to change—which affects your behavior. It takes time.”

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What needs to be done now, she continued, is to strengthen Filipinos’ knowledge on the issue.

PRSP does its bit by hosting annually the National PR Congress, which this year had the theme “Truth or Trolls: PR in the Age of Disinformation.”

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Keynote speaker was Jose Manuel Velasco, chair of the Global Alliance for PR and Communication Management.

Focusing on fake news—a misnomer, noted Pulitzer-winning journalist Manuel Mogato, which should instead be called disinformation as the term “news” automatically connotes truth—Vera Files’ Ellen Tordesillas dished out tips on how to spot these untruths.

Vera Files serves as one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers here in the Philippines, and Tordesillas said the investigative nonprofit organization has a team dedicated to tagging false and misleading information on the social media website.

Tordesillas said there are six telltale signs that should alert readers to online fake news: 1) the headline is outrageous or “clickbait-y”; 2) the website has no “About” page containing legitimate information about the organization behind it; 3) the report is badly written, with plenty of misspellings and wrong grammar; 4) the link to the story has a suspicious URL, which sometimes is similar to that of real news websites; 5) the story has no byline or writer’s name attached to it—a core principle in journalism; and 6) the article is satirical.

“The important thing is to stop fake news’ virality,” she said.

The National PR Congress, now on its 25th year, is but one way for PRSP to combat disinformation, said Ronquillo.

She acknowledged the fact, however, that “there will always be people who will manipulate data.”

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What PRSP does, continued Ronquillo, is to continue improving their profession by being thought leaders who push for the truth in all sectors and industries.

“Nobody wants to be told a lie; you would mark that person for life. So what we do in PRSP is every year, we ask people to come together, discuss and see how we can move our profession forward,” she said. “There will always be people who will choose to go to the dark side of the force—but we choose to be Jedis. We choose to give this opportunity [to discuss the negative effects of disinformation]. We want to stand for the truth, good governance—so join us.” —ANNELLE TAYAO-JUEGO

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