Our Archives and Special Collections Librarian, Vince Palcullo, RL, has been featured in “Resisting Disinfodemic: Media and Information Literacy for everyone and, by everyone” of the Department of Information Studies and Library Management in East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is part of their Global Media & Information Literacy Week 2020 (24-31 October 2020).
His article was featured in the event’s souvenir publication edited by Dr. Dilara Begum and Md. Hasinul Elahi. Read or download the entire publication here: https://bit.ly/36OWosZ
Vince Ervin V. Palcullo is a Registered Librarian in the Philippines since 2017. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) in Central Philippine University (CPU) where he also graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Library and Information Science (BLIS) in 2016. He previously worked as the Collections Management Officer of Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA), Megaworld Corp. under the Marketing/Commercial Division here in Iloilo City. His research interests are in Information Behavior, Disaster Management, Citation Analysis, Systematic Review, and History and Culture. Together with his colleagues, they have published several papers in international peer reviewed journals. Last September 2019, they presented one of their papers in the Joint Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts – Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (Joint ASFA-UMT) Conference in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. At present, he is affiliated with CPU as an instructor, and Archives and Special Collections Librarian.
In a world where everything seems to be a race, information surely has its own category. In this race, we, the people, could either be winners or collateral damage. It is a game of speed and time, and those bettors who have specific selfish agenda would always boost the speed of false information, leaving the truth behind in the middle of an unfair game. As Jonathan Swift said, “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.”
We are all vulnerable. In the current situation, who is left unaffected? It is not only the challenge of the health crisis that is currently being battled by the world today. Alongside the global pandemic is another plague that poisons every nation and society in the world: the “infodemic”. Infodemic is “an excessive amount of unfiltered information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult” Eysenbach (2009).
Information is one of the most essential commodities for a society to function, thus, people must consume only true and relevant information. Information can empower and liberate, however some individuals use this to purposely cage people from the truth and cause harm deliberately. This is where disinformation comes in.
Manipulation of information is not new. It seems that it is already embedded in the fabric of mankind. With its profound characteristics, disinformation poses great danger if taken for granted because it can mislead people which, to some extent, will result in a divided and conflicted society. It is natural for a person to stand for what he strongly believes in, and if this mentality will be purposely fueled by disinformation, then it can domino into massive corruption, uncontrollable anomalies, widespread manipulations and concealment of the truth, misdirected justice, and repugnant violence.
Mass media has progressed enormously, from being a one-way street where only media outlets can deliver news and information to the public into an interactive media setting where people who have access to the Internet can express themselves. With the freedom of expression which every citizen of a democratic country is entitled of, it is very easy to convey statements that can ripple into a huge wave of disinformation.
Tagged as the “Social Media Capital of the World,” disinformation’s adverse effects have long been felt in my country, the Philippines. This is most noticeable during the 2016 Philippine National Elections when false news such as endorsements of presidential aspirant, now President Rodrigo Duterte from prominent figures like the Pope surfaced (Lim, 2017). In the paper written by Sinpeng, A., Gueorguiev, D., & Arugay, A. A. (2020), inconsistencies between the levels of engagement of then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte himself and his social media engagement raised the prospect that the “online prominence was fabricated by paid trolls and fake accounts.” The toxicity and proliferation of disinformation were loudly protested by different organizations and members of the Philippine society. This incredible weaponization of social media has been a topic of several authors and journalists around the world (Ong & Cabanes, 2018; Ressa, 2016; Posetti & Matthews, 2018). This strongly proves that disinformation has a real-world impact.
Now that humanity is again standing at a fork in the road where information and data-driven decisions are badly needed, it seems that disinformation resurfaces more often and stronger. In the Philippines, the situation is much worse because information regarding COVID-19 is being mixed with and affected by political hues and propaganda, which are worsened by the reactions reaped from social media. These add fuel to the panic felt by the citizens during the pandemic as discussed by C. J. C. Nicomedes and R. M. A. Avila (2020) in their paper.
If what is happening in the Philippines is being multiplied by billions of people around the world, it will cause drastic effects on everyone. Disinformation can be used as a loophole to justify some actions that are going against the pillars of what is right and just. This will also be a way to oppress minorities who have different ideals, mislead those who are easily swayed, conceal the truth behind intricately fabricated lies, and kill our right to access and be informed of the truth.
Technological advancements create a highway where the horizon-sight distance between people and information becomes closer than ever, but people being blinded by these innovations and quickness can often miss the goal of being accurate, valid, and critical. Since this scenario is happening around the world, the collective participation and inclusive effort of everybody is needed.
Humanity has survived the call of the times by adapting to changes and by working together. After all, we are a social species. With the use of technology to spread it even more, disinformation has become a plague that threatens humanity now more than ever. Combating this other pandemic is not a job just for a selected few. This calls for universal cooperation because it is our civic obligation and duty as responsible human beings.
Having the gift of discernment and understanding, thinking critically, and having the freedom to choose can help us become media and information-literate. If disinformation is the piercing poison, media and information literacy is our antidote. We already know what the problem is. Unfortunately, some of us don’t realize that the antidote is within our grasp all along.
Eradication of disinformation is impossible. All that we can do is mitigate it. Media and information literacy is a very important and effective action for us to be vigilant and well-informed citizens. Reviewing the content of the information, evaluating and looking for suspicious angles in the information, and checking for the source of information can slow the flight of disinformation—this will greatly help the limping truth regain its strength and speed.
Vince Ervin V. Palcullo
Arugay, A. A. (2017). The Philippines in 2016: The electoral earthquake and its aftershocks. Southeast Asian Affairs, 277-296
Avendaño, C. O. (2018, January 31). Rappler links Duterte 2016 campaign to certain fake news. Philippine Daily Inquirer. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/964969/rappler-links-duterte-2016-campaign-to-certain-fakenews#ixzz6b0o5Ggcd
Bernadas, J. M. A. C. (2020). Journalism, public health, and COVID-19: some preliminary insights from the Philippines. Media International Australia, 177(1), 132-138. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X20953854
Buenaobra, M. I. T. (2016, April 27). Social Media: A Game Changer in Philippine Elections. The Asia Foundation. https://asiafoundation.org/2016/04/27/social-media-a-game-changer-in-philippine-elections/
Bulger, M., & Davison, P. (2018). The promises, challenges, and futures of media literacy. Data and Society Research Institute.
Eysenbach, G. (2009). Infodemiology and infoveillance: framework for an emerging set of public health informatics methods to analyze search, communication and publication behavior on the Internet. JMIR, 11(1), e11. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1157
Gianan, E. R. D. (2020). Disinformation trends in Southeast Asia: comparative case studies on Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 25(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.22452/jati.vol25no1.2
Lim, F. (2018, January 4). Combating fake news. Philippine Daily Inquirer. https://business.inquirer.net/243489/combating-fake-news
Nicomedes. C. J. C., & Avila, R. M. (2020). An analysis on the panic of Filipinos during COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. Research Gate.
Ong, J. C., & Cabañes, J. V. A. (2018). Architects of networked disinformation: Behind the scenes of troll accounts and fake news production in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://newtontechfordev.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ARCHITECTS-OF-NETWORKEDDISINFORMATION-FULL-REPORT.pdf
Posetti, J., Simon, F., & Shabbir, N. (2019). Lessons in innovation: How international news organizations combat disinformation through mission-driven journalism. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Posetti, J., & Matthews, A. (2018). A short guide to the history of ‘fake news’ and disinformation. International Center for Journalists.