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MANILA, Philippines – The Marcos administration on Monday, August 14, launched a “unified effort” against false information online. Their key partners from the private sector? The social media networks where disinformation typically spreads.
“False narratives and fake news have the power to mislead, divide and even cause harm or damage,” said Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil at the launch of the Presidential Communication Office’s “Media and Information Literacy” project.
Present during the launch at the Hilton Manila in Pasay City were representatives from Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Threads, and WhatsApp), Google, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter).
The project also involves the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and will initially be rolled out to the youth.
“Our formidable alliance is committed to ensuring the truth and accuracy prevail in a society where every voice contributes to the chorus of truth,” said Garafil.
According to a release from the Palace, the Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Program covers different audiences – from students, the country’s poorest, and local government units.
The DepEd and CHED, for instance, will craft the framework and questions for a nationwide survey, as well as recommend participants in planned focus group discussions. The department, led by Vice President Sara Duterte, will also help craft the “educator’s and learner’s MIL manual” and eventually include in the curriculum.
The DSWD, which handles the country’s social services, will conduct “trainings related to the project” in key communities. The DILG, meanwhile, will work with local government units, as well as the Sangguniang Kabataan and the National Youth Commission, in rolling out the project.
PCO Undersecretary Digital Media Services Emerald Ridao said the administration “already has mechanisms in place to hold peddlers of fake news accountable,” but added that the program would “complement that with a more stringent approach to prevention.”
The Marcos machinery
There is a twist of irony in the Marcos administration’s push of this project. Research showed that it was then candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who benefited the most from misinformation and disinformation before and in the immediate lead up to the 202 elections.
Vera Files, an independent news organization, found that “Marcos Jr. benefited the most from election-related disinformation in 2021,” while former vice president Leni Robredo, who came closest to Marcos in the elections, was the “favorite target.”
Fact-checking coalition Tsek.PH also reported that Marcos was the biggest beneficiary of disinformation in January 2022 alone, while Robredo was the biggest victim.
In 2019, a Rappler investigative series documented how the Marcoses tapped social media to rehabilitate their image more than three decades after their patriarch, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, was removed from power.
The President himself acknowledged the prevalence of disinformation. “It becomes dangerous – it became dangerous during the pandemic because people were giving us some very outrageous advice and this was hurting other people. But then it is now extended now into the – it has become such an important tool in the political realm,” he said.
Without elaborating, Marcos spoke about “fake news” in the campaign.
“And we all hear about fake news. We all hear that the entire campaign – I’ve heard this in reference to somebody I know – that their entire campaign was based on fake news. Everything that they said on the Internet was fake news,” he added.
The President did not specify who he was referring to, nor did he give a chance interview after the event.
The PCO did not say how the project would be funded, and it did not give a timeline for its rollout. – Rappler.com