Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday said the proliferation of misleading information and fake news has affected the country’s democracy, saying if unchecked; it could “cultivate a culture of lying.”
“If purveyors are allowed to get away with their lies, they embolden government officials to also lie in order to escape accountability, crush dissent, and commit illegal acts with impunity,” Poe said during an inquiry of a Senate Committee.
“If fake news is not challenged, it will create lynch mobs out of certain people, turning them into an army of character assassins, who can be unleashed, with just one meme, to destroy an idea, a person, or an institution,” Poe added.
The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media initiated an investigation into the spread of fake news and invited officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), bloggers, and journalists.
The lady senator also said that fake news has become pervasive through the use of bots and trolls, saying these accounts sway public opinion, shape civic discourse, affect social interaction, and influence government.
“This nation is churning out fake news in an industrial scale that it seems that while manufacturing is down, fake news factories are booming. And that while agriculture output is low, that of troll farms is high,” the senator stressed.
“It is not only in politics that fake news is blurring the truth and deepening the divide; it has encroached in other fields as well. Fake news is the e-version of the budol-budol, which many of our people unable to distinguish fact from fiction fall victims to. It is not even farfetched that in the future fake news can trigger wars,” she added.
Poe used Taiwan as an example where school kids are being taught media literacy to help them identify news from hoaxes.
“We also have to ask that while it is the role of each individual to vet sources and check facts, what is the role of the government in addressing the lack of news literacy? Should news literacy be required by schools?” she added.
Poe added that the danger of wrong online behavior is to be reflected in real life, highlighting the importance of exposing children to conversations that “educates and enlightens, relies on the truth, and not the kind that disrespects facts.”
In the manner of considering punishing individual purveyors of fake news, Poe said that public officials who release wrong and misleading information should also be held accountable.