Filipinos have only one savior to thank for, and that is Facebook.
Facebook, the social media giant, has saved the country from the impending doom which put Filipinos in the hands of those who proliferates misleading and fake information. Earlier this week, Facebook removed 200 pages, groups, and accounts which deemed to be using ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’ and spread false content across the social media network.
The term ‘fake news’ as described by CNN Philippines,is an oxymoron for lies which circulate online and masquerading as ‘truth.’ The rise of disinformation in the country became more apparent during the 2016 elections; this started when Presidential communications Assistant Secretary and blogger Mocha Uson made a false report on a bank account of a certain senator. Aside from that, the sexy star turned blogger also posted old stories and inaccurate photos on her Facebook page which were shared by thousands of her followers in the social media platform.
Today, it is Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher who leads the effort of preventing deceptive information from further domination over the country. In a blog post, Gleicher said that 67 Facebook pages, 68 Facebook accounts, 40 groups, and 25 Instagram fake users were taken down for ‘misleading people about who they were and what they were doing.’
Facebook sole basis of taking down these pages and accounts depends mostly on the users’ behavior. In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves. So the pages that have been removed were not only composed of fake accounts but also authentic ones.
Gleicher also wrote that Facebook is continuously working to detect and stop this type of activity. This move is considered to be a counterattack of the company to these owners, following several complaints from human rights groups that the social media network and its services are being used to manipulate people with misleading information.
Misleading information is classified into a non-factual data which is intended to confuse people or give them a false idea of something. In the case of these individuals who spread fake news on Facebook, they become influential to the extent that they decide what information people should believe. The power to know what is right and not relies heavily on these scams.
The faked accounts proliferate political messaging that promoted their candidates or attacked political opponents. These feigned accounts behaved as if they were real persons, and in most cases, those who followed them or saw their comments believed that they indeed exist.
On the other hand, the pages are accused of frequently posting about local and political news including topics like upcoming elections, candidates’ whereabouts and views, and alleged misconduct of competing officials. The pages were also designed to look independent, but the truth is, a single individual or group coordinated them.
The pages made its way on Facebook ads, spending a total of about 59,000 dollars with the first ever ad appearing in January 2014 and the last, just this March 2019. The ads, according to Rappler, were paid through Philippine peso, Saudi Riyal, and US dollars.
The culture of deceiving people is becoming a massive problem in the country. As internet usage rises among teens and adults, a vast majority of Filipinos see the issue of fake news and false information as a serious concern. Fake news takes the form of online news stories, mostly shared through different social media platforms including Facebook, where it’s emotionally manipulative rather than offer factual data. It eventually triggers people into anger or hate which then shared by like-minded people who agree with each other. And that becomes a sensation.
It is hard to identify the perpetrators because they employ a trick of combining authentic and inauthentic accounts. That is the main reason why fake news is quickly becoming propaganda dressed in new, social-media-age clothes.
For our part as social media users, we need to start asking ourselves ‘is what I am reading constitute the truth? ‘how do I determine whether this information is true or not?’ One practical solution to prevent the spread of fake data is to know whether the source is credible or not. Lastly, make it a habit to research when you find something very intriguing and then read because information is power.