Connect with us


Bootcamp held to fight fake news




Facebook said the Philippines — home to 106 million people — has 69 million users, the sixth-largest country group.

A room full of Filipino police and soldiers stares intently at headlines projected on a screen, the latest students of a media bootcamp aimed at fighting their nation’s flood of fake news.

Scores of people ranging from girl scouts to government workers have already received the same innovative instruction in the Philippines, ranked the world’s top user of social media.

“Which one is real?” asks class teacher Rowena Paraan, a veteran journalist with a top Philippine TV network, as she stands in a sweltering gym on a military base.

Her lesson is part of the channel’s long-running citizen journalism training program, which since late-2016 has shown some 25,000 people how to fight the fake news spike that accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte’s rise.

The first headline zeroes in on the nation’s struggle against the infamous jihadists on its southern islands: “Donald Trump sends 5,000 troops to fight Abu Sayyaf.”

It’s fake and several students quickly shoot up their hands to say so. But subsequent headlines get harder and harder until the only sound is Paraan’s footsteps as she paces among the students.

The training, which is delivered free-of-charge to groups who request it, provides an overview of how fake news works as well as techniques to spot and debunk it.

Formats and content vary, but generally the classes are run by journalists teaching social media-obsessed youth how not to get fooled online.

Paraan says the risk of being manipulated has serious consequences.

Among the nearly three dozen police and soldiers in class is officer Bernadette Leander, who came because she has already tangled with fake news at work.

One of the reasons the Philippines is a key battleground for fake news is the sheer volume of its online activity.

Facebook said the Philippines — home to 106 million people — has 69 million users, the sixth-largest country group.

With some 10 million Filipinos living abroad, the size of the diaspora goes some way towards explaining the country’s fondness for social media.

“We always want to connect to our family members and friends from far away, and one way to do that is through social media,” said Rica Oquias, managing director of Manila digital marketing firm M2Social. AFP