It’s all too easy to make something up. And it’s just as easy for that made-up “fact” to show up on your news feed, find its way in your family group chat, and then be echoed by everyone in your social circles.
Before you know it, you’ll believe horribly twisted versions of the truth.
Take the 49th Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law, for instance. All sorts of stories from both ends of the spectrum abound. Some say Marcos was the best, some say Marcos was the worst. Some say it was the Philippines’ glory days, some claim it was our darkest period.
This article is not for people who have already made their stand. It’s for people who are unsure and want to base their convictions on something more solid than TikTok and kuwento ng kapitbahay.
How do you tell fact from fiction?
How Fake News Works
Three things make fake news (social media posts, articles, photos, and videos) effective:
It panders to a person’s biases
It exploits our tendency to believe anything that affirms our strongly held beliefs. Yes, it takes a lot of will and scholarly humility to even consider something that goes against “facts” we’ve known all our life.
They’re designed to mislead
False stories often mimic the content and layout of a truthful story. For example, you recognize a photo of a quote from the Philippine Star because of the distinctive yellow-and-blue combination. But upon closer inspection, it bears the name Philippine Istar.
They’re easily amplified.
Social media platforms tend to amplify posts and headlines that get the highest engagement, regardless of veracity, regardless of the credibility of the source.
Repeat after me: a popular post is not always true.
For these reasons, fake news spreads faster than the Delta variant in the Philippines.
And the only antidote is media literacy; somebody in the chain has to fact-check and stop bogus stories from spreading even further.
Check the Source
Verifying the source is the best way to avoid fake news. It is your first clue on the credibility of the story or photo you have seen. Major news sites have verified social media accounts and distinctive URLs.
Look out for:
Fake Social Media Accounts
Be vigilant about social media handles. In 2020, CNN Philippines disowned a fake Twitter account, which replaced the small L in “philippines” with a capital i.
Fake news may come from websites with URLs intending to mislead. Government websites and schools have .gov.ph and .edu or .edu.ph, respectively. Domains for major news sites vary, but a quick browse of the site can tell you whether it’s legit.
This is harder to verify. If the photo is shared from the official news site account, then it’s real. But if it was simply uploaded by a random user, search the headline online to confirm.
No source cited? Check the author.
Check the Author
Is OP a historian, professor, or somebody who has studied the matter extensively? Or are they someone who takes neighborhood gossip for fact?
Just as we believe medical professionals when they say vaccines are safe, the statement of these academicians on something as decisive as Martial Law carry more weight than those of others — including mine.
Historians and social science professors have studied first-hand accounts and peer-reviewed articles (peer-reviewed, meaning the articles are subject to scrutiny of other experts in the field before they were published). Their thoughts and sentiments are not based on TikTok and Facebook content.
Seasoned historians also see through Tagalog fake news, fallacious statements, and mud-slinging because they know what they’re talking about.
And check the author’s biases, just as you’d check yours. If someone is more inclined to believe in something, their judgment of events and presentation of facts is highly tainted. That affects credibility.
Scholarship vs. Propaganda
How do you tell the scholars from the propaganda machine?
Here are a few indicators, according to a report by the University of Michigan Library:
- Describes limits of data, instead of claiming full certainty
- Encourages debate and discussion, instead of distorting data that goes against preferred views
- Presents alternative views, instead of hitting with personal attacks and ridicule
Go Beyond the Headline
Headlines are designed to grab your attention. But the reading should not stop there.
If you encounter an article discussing the pros or cons of Martial Law, resist the temptation to push the share button based only on the title.
Reading the article reveals the nuances of the author’s thoughts.
Not Convinced? Fact-Check
If neither the source nor the author can assuage your doubt, go online and check other sources and academicians for yourself.
- Be on the lookout for fake news, fake sites, and fake social media accounts.
- Be cognizant of the fact that videos on YouTube and TikTok may be created not by academicians, but people who cherry-pick information.
- Be aware of the echo-chamber you’re in.
And if you find yourself saying, “How come none of these so-called ‘reputable’ institutions have anything good to say about Marcos?”
I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
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Drinks an ungodly amount of coffee and eats an ungodly amount of chocolate. Up at an ungodly hour.