Philippines: diagnosing the infodemic | The Interpreter

The Philippines are less than a year away from the May 2022 national elections, and an estimated 5.8 million first-time voters (ages 18-23) are expected to join the roughly 63 million mostly young voters entering the Polling stations flock. Given the ongoing risks from the Covid-19 pandemic and the prospect of persistent mobility impairments, it is likely that online campaign platforms will play an even more important role in shaping voting decisions than in any previous election.

This online aspect raises serious concerns among pro-democratic actors who are now wary of the increased potential for misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation refers to incorrect or inaccurate material that is often unwittingly passed on to mislead with no particular intention. Disinformation is its more conscious cousin – the deliberate dissemination of false, misleading, or biased information, manipulated narratives, and propaganda. In short, both are often referred to as “fake news”. Fake news is difficult to crack down on if there is no action. This article examines a range of diagnostic survey tools to assess the prevalence of the phenomenon, with a focus on young voters in the upcoming election campaign in the Philippines.

Infodemy and “Patient Zero”

In 2018, Facebook manager Katie Harbath recognized the challenge of protecting electoral integrity on social media by announcing measures to deter attacks on knowledge (e.g. violence and strengthening account security) and ensure voter turnout (e.g. counter-tactics) to keep people from voting). Given the role of social media in influencing the 2016 election in the Philippines, Harbath called the country “patient zero” what many would later refer to in a growing number of democracies as a fake news pandemic or “infodemic” on social media.

Part of this contagion is insidious and deliberate. In Facebook’s latest threat report, The State of Influence Operations 2017-2020, the company said it had removed 150 “coordinated efforts to manipulate or corrupt public debate for a strategic goal” from its platform in different countries since 2017.

For the past four years, we have investigated and eliminated influence operations by commercial actors – media, marketing and PR firms, including in Myanmar, the US, the Philippines, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Some of these operations were domestic and promoted interests linked to political entities in their country of origin. Some offered OK. at [Influence Operations] Services to paying customers at home and abroad, making these techniques accessible for those with fewer resources or infrastructure to run their own IO campaigns.

Fake news diagnosis

Recent research is testing the ability of survey-based diagnostic tools to track infodemia. In the United States, a study measured the accuracy of students in spotting fake news. Respondents were shown 12 messages and asked to classify them as real or fake. Just over 64 percent of students identified the fake news, with higher performing students showing a higher critical rating.

Across the cohort, the willingness to share news online seemed independent of ratings of trustworthiness or ability to determine the veracity of the news. Instead, students simply share messages that trigger an emotional response or introduce something new. To improve student rating, the study recommends examining the entire news source website, relying on multiple sources for news, scanning all search results, and devoting sufficient time to rating each news item in order to avoid spreading online misinformation to prevent.

In the Netherlands, a study of high school students used a game scenario to help young people spot fake news.

Another study from the University of Warwick in England used photographs to assess respondents’ ability to identify original and manipulated images of real-life scenes. The study showed that people are only able to recognize manipulated images of real scenes to a very limited extent, even if the edits are implausible. This is especially alarming in a world where photo editing tools are readily available and becoming increasingly sophisticated.

In the Netherlands, a study of high school students used a game scenario to help young people spot fake news. Participants produced news articles on the European refugee crisis, which was considered a highly politicized topic, through the glasses of different types of fake news producers using various misleading tactics. Evidence from the study suggests that playing the fake news game decreased the reliability and persuasiveness obtained from fake news articles among respondents.

A fake news indicator for the Philippines

At the Ateneo Policy Center in Manila, researchers have developed a potential diagnostic tool to measure the presence and depth of susceptibility to fake news, especially among young people (18-29), who are expected to reach 24 million voters in the Philippines by May 2022 Choose. With the aim of contributing to this emerging field, the political center has teamed up with educational institutions, organizations and student governments from universities and colleges in the 25 most vocal cities in the country and in the country’s capital. The diagnostic tool is based on an online survey that enables respondents to identify possible examples of fake news in a five-minute quiz.

The poll consists of several sections on teenagers’ thoughts and elections, with one section in the form of a fake news quiz. The quiz consists of five exact messages and five fake messages that respondents rate as true or false. The fake news was randomly selected from a list of stories created by Vera Files and Rappler between January and June 2021. Control programs in the Philippines.

For a significant percentage of teenagers in certain geographic areas, the ability to spot fake news is below the success rate, which is typically 75 percent in the Philippines.

The exact messages have been chosen to reflect the format and timeframe of the fake news and contain ambiguous or absurd statements that could be passed off as real news. The survey was rolled out via various social media and learning management platforms at the end of August 2021. By the end of September, around 24,625 young Filipinos from 25 partner colleges and universities had taken part.

The results were convincing and begin to depict the landscape in the fight against fake news. For a significant percentage of teenagers in certain geographic areas, the ability to spot fake news is below the success rate, which is typically 75 percent in the Philippines. Those who failed typically scored around 60 percent (The two charts show the number of people who were able to accurately identify the five fake messages and five real messages). The distribution of fake news scores in the four major study areas (National Capital Region (NCR), Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) seems to be very similar.

Although these results should not be transferred to all young people in these important regions, the indicators open up opportunities for further research and education. These initial results could equip educators and researchers with the information they need to identify young people’s vulnerability to infodemia and potentially track the spread of disinformation between groups and over time.

Before a cure, diagnosis

Good quality information is vital to functioning democracies – it is especially critical to making better informed voter decisions. Technology offers tremendous opportunities for providing information that can combat the decay of truth, but it also opens the door to abuse. Like a virus, disinformation can be contagious – it can spread easily and contribute to the political polarization and division that afflicts many democracies today. Rather than moving towards stronger collective action, the Philippines, like many democratic societies, appears to be further removed from social cohesion and common goals. While we can now better monitor the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are still grappling with how we can better monitor the infodemic.

Efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation rely on social media platforms (through self-regulation of “inauthentic content”), the media and civil society organizations (through fact-checking initiatives), academic institutions (through research and awareness-raising campaigns among young people) and government ( in the form of legislative reforms to regulate social media). Nonetheless, there is still significant debate on some of the fronts, particularly with respect to government regulation, which can end up stifling free expression and fueling anti-democratic tendencies among governments. In the quest for a more viable and egalitarian cure, it is vitally important to develop diagnoses so that researchers can at least better track the vulnerability and contagious spread of fake news.

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