When the Country’s top Leaders are the Perpetrators of Fake News, What do we do to Combat it?

Maria Romero
PUBLISHED November 22, 2018 12:29 am
Art by Dani Elevazo

If the world is three years younger than it is today, the proliferation of fake news seems to be a minor dilemma because a fewer number of people are exposed to the dangers of the internet. But now it has become a household name that it even gave birth to threats that set democracy and free debate on the brink of collapse. Fake news became a hot topic because it easily influences people’s views, pushes for political agenda, and creates confusion in favor of selected online publishers; so hot that it even became Collin Dictionary 2017’s word of the year.

Traditionally (and as it should be), we get our daily news updates from trusted sources and media outlets that follow strict codes of media practice. But thanks to the internet, anyone can now easily publish pieces of content that it’s hard to know who’s factual or not. And it seems like we now live in a universe where there are no boundaries left between fact and fake.

In the recently concluded Asia Society’s Young Leader’s Summit last November 14-16, Malaysian Political Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, Inter-Press Service Asia Pacific Regional Director Johanna Son, and Jindal School of International Affairs Tridivesh Singh Maini talked about free press and young leaders in the time of fake news.

In a country where the top leaders are the perpetrators of fake news, what do we do to combat it? Sure, fighting fake news seems like a losing battle but there are actually many ways to win it.

1. Meet your digital self

Before we begin fighting the battle between fact and fake news, we have to get our gears aka selves ready. To do that, we must get to know more about our digital selves. Ask yourself: What do I say online that I don’t offline? How much of my social media presence is professional and personal? How do I choose which I read, watch, and share?

Being a responsible social media user isn’t just about being responsible for choosing what we share online but being critical on what we come across the internet. Trust us, not even half of the information we consume from the internet is true.

2. Know where to stand

Changing the news landscape will never happen overnight but it is attainable through adopting a firm position on where to stand—to the right side. For instance, you may want to curate your following list to people with the same advocacies and values as yours; not only will your feed be informative, but empowering, too. Indeed, standing up for what’s right isn’t going to be a smooth sailing but it will always be worth it in the end.

Political Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque said that one must always adopt a firm position in an issue. “How can I be neutral? Even my pen has a stand,” Haque said. Yes, taking a stand is one thing but taking a stand for something is quite another.  

3. Read, don't be lazy

At its core, fake news are purposefully intended to mislead the readers for political and economic gains. This means that these stories play with your emotions that make it easier for you to click on and share. Most often it is crafted with trigerring headlines and compelling images—either of which are enough basis for some people to derive opinions of. And on most times, the downright false reports masquerade itself through providing arguable context to inaccurate facts—this is why reading is important.

In the Philippines, you’ll see what the people have become when you go to the news comments section. We have been blinded by propaganda way too many times, it’s about time to stop it—READ!

4. Know your sources

The minute you go online, you become the subject for competition by all the websites present in the interwebz. While all these players are on a virtual race to get first dibs on your attention, not all of them are exactly telling the truth.

It is thus important to know your sources but other than being critical, this one requires some probing. First, you have to verify the publisher’s credibility, the website’s domain, and the writer him/herself. If you come across a poorly written article with lots of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, you have to immediately close your tab as it would surely be one of the many fake news made to confuse you.

The platform where you find the news is likewise important. If it was shared by a Facebook page that promotes a certain personality or politician, then it was most likely biased so look beyond the stories as it might affect your decision-making later on.

5. Report fake news sites

Social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have their fair share to smash fake news by enabling a feature that allows users to report the potential fake news. In the Philippines where there are approximately 36 million Facebook users, Facebook is basically the internet. So here are four easy steps to report false news on the platform; (1) click the upper right button and (2) click report post. Then click “false news” and (4) mark post as false news. You may be asked to give more feedback about it so you have to honestly answer it and let Facebook do its job after.


The onslaught of fake news stories show how our freedom is being held hostage by propagandists. Getting rid of it is far from over but we must start to be responsible and critical NOW. With our national standing, it seems that the stakes would be higher if we refuse to take the actions now.

Perhaps instead of adding a foreign language in our current education curriculum, it’s high time we add a more comprehensive media and information literacy subject that also focuses on combatting fake news.

Fighting fake news is not just about knowing the steps, it’s about actually taking those steps to make the internet world more livable for the future generations to come.



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