How to be a responsible netizen? Keep calm and think before you click
Social media went abuzz on Tuesday night, May 23, following the clash between Philippine troops and the Maute group in Marawi City.
The incident simultaneously unfolded on social media with Marawi residents posting real-time updates on various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Meanwhile, netizens elsewhere responded to the attack with heartfelt messages expressing solidarity for the affected civilians of Marawi, pushing #PrayForMarawi to the top nationwide trending list on Tuesday night.
Social media has been the go-to platform for the public in times of emergencies like the separate incidents of the Maute attack in the Philippines and the Manchester bombing in England, as well as during disasters.
While this knee-jerk collective response understably comes naturally, particularly for a social-media savvy nation like the Philippines, netizens are advised to tread carefully when engaging on social media, as information that is not true or misleading can spread as easily as truthful information online.
Social media experts agree that there are at least three things that the public should avoid doing in times of crisis: relaying misinformation, pre-empting government actions, and amplifying the online propaganda of terrorist groups.
In the wake of an attack, experts say there exists a thin line between sharing helpful information and wrongfully amplifying propaganda or misinformation.
Here are helpful tips to be a better netizen in the wake of an attack:
Be mindful of what you share
In a press statement, the Philippine National Police urged the public to “refrain from posting on social media information that would tend to exacerbate the situation.”
This includes providing blow-by-blow reports which include critical information, photos, and videos of the military’s movements that could pre-empt the government’s response to the situation. (READ: PNP: Limit Marawi posts to 'what you know, what you see')
Read beyond the headline
Before sharing stories on social media, make sure to check if the source is reliable and if the information can be backed up with evidence. Another important response is to check the date and make sure the post is not outdated.
Reduce the noise. Do not share unverified reports on social media
Social media can easily get flooded in times of emergencies. Help reduce the noise by not spreading unverified information on social media – especially those that do nothing but provoke fear in the community.
The number of fake news sites masking themselves as real news sites is growing, making it more difficult for the average reader to tell the difference between what's real and what's fake. Some even mimic real news websites using URLs which closely resemble the URLs of the authentic pages. Avoid these kinds of websites and warn others about them. (READ: Can you tell fake news from real news?)
Refrain from sowing unnecessary fear
Terrorist groups like the ISIS have harnessed social media and the Internet to recruit fighters and spread their propaganda. Social media users and the media may unwittingly contribute to the spread of this propaganda. (READ: How to fight ISIS on social media)
According to Wired, social media expert and author Zeynep Tufekci, says that “[public] mass-murder terrorism—religious-inspired to white-supremacist to school shootings—has a media strategy. Media keeps cooperating.”
To some extent, terrorist groups thrive on the publicity they organically gain from the media and the public. One way of not contributing to this "endless loop of terror victims", as pointed out by Poynter, is to refrain from sharing visual images and videos of terrified victims.
With real lives and even national security at stake, we are all called to be responsible social media consumers and producers. – Rappler.com
Raisa Serafica is a Community Manager and Social Media Producer at MovePH