Senator Bam Aquino calls on public to fight misinformation online
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Paolo Benigno 'Bam' Aquino called on the public to fight the spread of misinformation and for the government to ease access to information in a forum in Makati City on Monday, December 5.
Aquino said that putting out information is not enough as many people can easily twist the truth. "There are a lot of misinformation and fake news out there which seeks to twist the truth in any way. We have to defend the right information and the truth," he said.
Speaking at Transparency 5.0: From Theory to Action, Aquino asked the day's central theme: What can the government, the media, and the citizens do to promote transparency and open access to information?
"What we need are champions in government, in traditional media, in new media, in politics, in business who will say: We will not stand for misinformation. We will push for transparency, and we will do our best to make sure information is used for the good of the country," Aquino said.
“We are surely living in a time of dramatic change and we must remain steadfast with our values and aware of responsibilities as citizens,” said Suyin Liu Lee, Executive Director of Asia Society Philippines. “Calls for greater transparency and accountability are manifesting itself in countries around the world, not just in the Philippines, and we believe there is a dynamic transformation occurring across our world, where citizens can push the envelope of civil discourse in new and more historic ways than ever before.”
The forum is the 5th annual public forum on good governance, transparency, and accountability co-sponsored by Asia Society Philippines and the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov).
Freedom or restriction of Information?
With the Executive Order (EO) on Freedom of Information (FOI) and the recent launch of the FOI website, the onus is upon the Philippine government to act more transparently. (READ: FOI to take effect on November 25: What you need to know)
Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said that FOI is for everybody and not just for the media or the academe.
Some critics, however, argue that the FOI EO does not go far enough to give open access to information, citing national security and presidential communications exceptions that could be used to block access to information.
Journalist Howie Severino called the restrictions a possible 'fence on freedom of information.' He added that the burden of proof should come from government agencies and not the individual seeking the information.
Rise of the trolls
In the post-fact age where social media affects public perception in hyper speed, a discussion facilitated by Rappler's Managing Editor, Glenda Gloria, focused on how citizens could channel near unlimited access to information offered by the Internet into actual social good. Panelists included Founder and Executive Director of Rock Ed Philippines Gang Badoy Capati, Inquirer.net Editor-in-Chief John Nery, and Bantay.PH Co-founder Happy Ferraren.
The discussion inevitably focused on the rise of online trolls.
Nery said that trolls have greatly affected the level of discourse on social media. Even if facts can easily be accessed online, false information in the form of memes and Facebook pages gains traction because they are shared organically or by organized groups. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet)
"Trolling intimidates real people who want to converse intelligently," Gloria said, adding that many journalists have received threats from trolls and real people just for reporting the facts.
"It's an online massacre. It is difficult because they are anonymous and omnipotent," she said.
The panelists agreed that the challenge for the millenial generation to overcome is how they will use information and technology to promote social good.
For Feraren, the world wide web is a good enabler for social movements. She mentioned how the anti-pork barrel protest 'Million People March' in 2013 successfully capitalized on social media to bring thousands to the streets.
Feraren said it is easy to spark an online campaign but sustaining interest in the fight for good governance remains a challenge.
The event also featured keynote speeches from public affairs consultant and commentator Karim Raslan, who spoke about the regional implications of an open society, and Facebook Head of Public Policy for the Asia Pacific Elizabeth Hernandez, who talked about Facebook’s initiatives to better connect people. – Rappler.com
The entire forum can be viewed on the Asia Society Facebook page. Rappler is a media partner of the Asia Society