Senators told: Drop the term ‘fake news’ in legislation
MANILA, Philippines –News organizations have asked the Senate to drop the term “fake news” from legislation, arguing that it’s an oxymoron phrase as false information can’t be considered news.
VERA Files founder Ellen Tordesillas first raised such concern during the joint hearing of the Senate committees on Justice and Human Rights and Public Information and Mass Media on Senate Bill No. 1296, which seeks to outlaw the creation and dissemination of fake news by amending the Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, to accommodate the definition of “fake news” and add it among those considered a content-related offense.
“May problema po kami sa term na ‘fake news.’ Hindi po namin iyon ginagamit iyon. Iyon ang number one na problem namin dito sa bill na gumagamit ng words na ‘fake news,’” she said.
(We have a problem with using the term ‘fake news.’ We don’t use this. That’s our number one problem in this bill that uses the words ‘fake news.’)
Tordesillas pointed out that even the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) does not use the term, noting that nothing false could be called news.
“Oxymoron po iyon kasi kapag sinabi mong news, dapat totoo iyon. Kapag hindi iyon totoo, tsismis iyon. If it is news, it isn’t fake. And if it’s false then, it cannot be news. So meron lang problema sa words na ‘fake news.’ Ang ginagamit namin sa journalism at fact-checking – disinformation, misinformation at saka malinformation,” she explained.
(It’s an oxymoron because when you say the news, it should be true. If it’s not true, it’s gossip. If it is news, it isn’t fake. And if it’s false then, it cannot be news. So we have a problem with the words ‘fake news.’ What we use in journalism and fact-checking is disinformation, misinformation, and “malinformation.”)
But what is the difference between disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation?
According to Unesco, misinformation is misleading content and false connection shared with no intent to harm, while disinformation is false, imposter, manipulated, or fabricated content shared with malicious intent.
Malinformation, it said, is “information, that is based on reality, but used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country.”
With this, Tordesillas further pressed that the term “fake news” should not be embedded into legislation.
“Hindi talaga pwedeng magamit na ‘fake news’ sa batas. Laganap na ginagamit ngayon pero parang mahirap kasi na gamitin iyon sa batas. Walang definition iyong ‘fake news’ na tama. At saka, nagiging catch-all phrase na kapag galit ka sa tao, ayaw mo sa kanyang balita, sabihin mo – ‘Ah, fake news iyon.’ Kapag diyan palang tayo magsimula, medyo mahirap na,” she explained.
(We cannot use the term ‘”fake news” in legislation. This is frequently being used nowadays, but it would be difficult to use in law since there is no correct definition for ‘fake news.’ And it’s now become a catch-all phrase for when you don’t like someone or the news they wrote, you’ll say it’s ‘fake news.’ If we start there, it’ll already be a bit difficult.)
Gemma Mendoza, who heads Rappler’s initiatives in addressing disinformation in the digital sphere, echoed Tordesillas’ sentiment as she pointed out that the oxymoronic term has been more commonly used to push back against legitimate criticisms.
“Bagama’t problema talaga ang disinformation, ang isang nakakabahala ay nagagamit iyong term na ‘fake news’ very arbitrarily. Nagagamit po siya ukol sa legitimate na criticisms so ang nangyayari po, iyong hindi gusto ng tao, tinatawag na ‘fake news,’” she explained.
(While disinformation is a problem, it’s also concerning that we’re using the term ‘fake news’ very arbitrarily. It’s being used to counter legitimate criticisms. So what happens is, when someone doesn’t like what another says, it’s called ‘fake news.’)
Mendoza argued that there are other means to address disinformation, which will not require it to be outlawed.
“Ang mahalagang kailangan mangyari, hindi dapat ma-amplify sa platforms iyong ganitong posts, iyong mga hindi totoo,” she said.
(The important thing to do is to refrain from amplifying posts that are not true.)
She pointed out the need to thoroughly study and develop viable solutions to stamp out unverified posts that go viral online.
Mendoza said that bolstering media and information literacy initiatives is another way to combat disinformation.
Senator Robin Padilla then asked how they can punish perpetrators of disinformation, if not through criminalizing the act of creating and spreading it.
He mentioned how a pool of netizens claimed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was in Japan when Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (International name: Nalgae) ravaged the country in October, making the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President?) trend on Twitter.
“Pagkatapos mapatunayan na nandoon sa Cotabato ang Presidente, wala man lang pagtutuwid ng balita. Iyon po, papaano po iyon? Wala bang parusa iyon?” the neophyte senator asked.
(After it was proven that the President was in Cotabato, there was no effort to correct the news. What do we do with that? That will be left unpunished?)
READ: Robin Padilla: Asking the President’s whereabouts is considered ‘national threat’
Mendoza reiterated that outlawing disinformation is not the solution.
“Ang solution po kapag may kumakalat na maling impormasyon – ang isa po sa solusyon is more information…The [news] platforms also have ways for fact-checking at iyon ay isang pwedeng gawin. Pero hindi po solusyon iyong criminalization,” she explained.
(The solution is that if the wrong information is disseminated, it should be countered with more information. The [news] platforms also have ways for fact-checking, which is another thing we can do. But the solution is not criminalization.)
In the House of Representatives, a similar bill seeking to outlaw “fake news” has also been filed by several lawmakers as they noted that “misinformation and disinformation must not go unpunished.”
In the country, almost 90 percent of adult Filipinos across all socioeconomic classes believe that fake news is a problem based on a survey conducted by Pulse Asia from Sept. 17 to 21.
It also noted that Filipinos nationwide deem social media influencers, journalists, and politicians as the leading culprits for “spreading false information.”
Fight fake news without outlawing it – Nancy Binay
Fake news persists because ‘people in power feed it’ – Colmenares
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.