Robredo rallies ‘army of truth seekers’ vs online trolls
In an online world populated by social media trolls peddling fake news, Vice President Leni Robredo wants to fight back by mobilizing an “army of truth seekers.”
“This is the perfect time to start a campaign against lies and alternative facts,” she told a forum on social media organized by the Coalition for Better Education at the Cebu Eastern College.
“Let’s gather together an army of truth seekers, because though there are many trolls, I think there are more people who want the truth,” Robredo said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In her speech, a transcript of which was sent to Manila reporters, the former Camarines Sur congresswoman lamented the proliferation of people spreading lies and misinformation on Facebook, Twitter, and alternative news blogs.
She cited her own experiences battling hoaxes and unfounded rumors.
Some of these have included speculations of a romantic liaison with a congressman or her being pregnant, as well as her alleged links to groups plotting President Rodrigo Duterte’s downfall, all of which her office has sought to debunk.
“At first, we tried to take the high road. We said that ‘since it’s not true, no one will pay attention to it.’ So we tried to ignore the lies going around about myself or my Office,” Robredo said.
“But in the six months since then, while we were taking the high road, while we were not responding to the lies, it began to seem like the lies were becoming truth. Because people were only reading the lies and couldn’t see the truth,” she said.
“So we realized that every time lies, fake news, or alternative facts are shared, they assume the appearance of truth. When a lie is repeated often enough, it begins to look like the truth. Even the liar sometimes begins to believe his lies,” she said.
“Shall we accept this world? That is what we must answer today… Shall we surrender the truth to those who want to corrupt it? Of course my answer is we must not,” she said.
“The success of our democracy—and the state of our rights and freedoms—will depend on how we protect the truth,” Robredo said.
She said the people might feel powerless in the face of an onslaught of falsities and lies on social media.
“But we must challenge ourselves to uphold the truth and its essential place in public discourse. We must be unafraid to debunk falsehoods, to counter fallacies, and to expose frauds who deceive our people so brazenly,” she said.
Robredo said this was precisely because of the rise of the internet and social media, which, unlike traditional media, did not have gatekeepers.
In the days before the internet, “factual and balanced reporting was necessary for public discourse,” she said.
But these days, “anyone can be an authority. No editors. No publishers. Anyone can write a headline… Today, it seems that truth and accuracy are no longer relevant. We are occupying what they call a post-truth world,” she said.
“It makes sense for those who would want to deceive the public to discredit the media, so they can turn the Internet into the only alternative source of information,” she said. “I don’t know if you notice this now. There is an ongoing campaign or attempt to discredit legitimate media,” she said.
Thus there’s need to protect the Philippine press, she said.
“Journalists and media practitioners need our support in ensuring that these standards are met, rather than persecuted, and treated as if everyone who wears a press badge is dishonest,” Robredo said.
Addressing the media, she said: “We urge you to keep defending your integrity, to speak out despite the threats, and to remain courageous in your work.”/rga