All the fuss about fake news
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - September 25, 2017 - 4:00pm

"Can we all take a breath?" suggested a piece in the blog named Ishmael's Corner. "Fake news is not a threat to democracy."

The problem, wrote the Silicon Valley blogger behind the blog, is when "people can't differentiate between what's real and what is fake. That's what needs to be fixed."

The blog was reacting to a New York Times story on the topic which quoted Susan Credle, global creative officer of the ad agency FCB who reportedly said, "Fake news is not a cute or silly subject. When you start to tear down media and question what's real and what's not real, our democracy is threatened."

"Our democracy is threatened?" the blog was incredulous at Credle's suggestion. "Whether you call it fake news, hyperbole or lies - take your pick - this stuff has been going on since the republic's founding."

Of course, the dynamics are different today, the blog continued. "Thanks to social media and the velocity with which these falsehoods travel."

"But fake news doesn't threaten democracy. What threatens democracy is laziness. When people don't take the time to figure out the source behind the information and answer the question, 'Is that source trustworthy?' the end result is hyperventilation or confirmation bias or both."

In a forum during the recently concluded Cebu Press Freedom Week, Iain Martin, editor of the Asian Bureau of Ireland-based news agency Storyful, shared to students the various tools to ferret out hoaxes and misinformation in the Internet.

Along with the classic method of critical thinking and triangulating sources, Martin suggests that people may use online tools like Tweetdeck, Facebook Signal, BuzzSumo, and Google Suite.

Using such tools may probably be worth it. But a basic knowledge of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) may well be enough as a starting point to pierce through the veil of the aesthetics of seeming authenticity.

I'm quite sure HTML or some more advanced variety is already taught in all elementary and public high schools in the country. As a student in the 90s, it was not taught during our time. If that's also the case with you, just google "Learn HTML in 15 minutes" and you'll be done in less time than it takes to bemoan about the dangers of fake news.

In my case, I had attended trainings and bought a book on digital coding. That was 10 years ago when the term "fake news" was far from becoming Macquarie Dictionary's word of the year.

Knowing basic coding language for web pages, or digital literacy in general, allows a person to grasp the premise that every information whether in textual or image symbol existing in the Internet can easily be subjected to manipulation. That is what I mean by "piercing through the veil of the aesthetics of seeming authenticity."

Working on that premise, it should become a habit for people to frame information they receive online with the actual social environment that they are in. They can, for instance, resort to triangulation -the validation of information through cross verification from two or more tried and tested sources.

Indeed, the real threat is when people can't differentiate between what is real and what is fake. But it's a problem that can be fixed. What is needed is an open and inquisitive approach to media technology.

But surely, today's political climate cannot mainly be blamed on fake news which has become a punching bag of many of those in the traditional media.

ianmanticajon@gnail.com.

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