In a survey released on Monday by local research institution Social Weather Stations (SWS), it reported that a majority of Filipino internet users believe fake news is a problem.
To be exact, 67 percent of those surveyed in March thought the problem was either “very serious” or “somewhat serious.”
20 percent of the respondents were undecided on the issue while 13 percent said it was either “somewhat not serious” or “not serious at all.”
A similar survey conducted by SWS in December asked people to rate how serious the fake news problem is on television, radio, and newspapers and found that 60 percent of adult Filipinos think it is either “very serious” or “somewhat serious.”
But while many agree that it is a problem, the report does not delve into what people consider fake news, a term that has taken over newsfeeds since the 2016 Presidential elections and has been used by both supporters and critics of the Duterte administration.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s critics have called some members his administration, such as Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, as alleged purveyors of false information.
In April, a youth group even filed a complaint against Uson at the Office of the Ombudsman and called for her dismissal for sharing fake news.
In August last year, netizens also called for Uson’s firing, leading to the hashtag #FireMocha to trend on Philippine Twitter. This came after she insinuated in a Facebook post that opposition senators and Vice President Leni Robredo did not visit the wake of a police officer who was killed by a drug peddler — an incident that happened a year before Uson posted about it.
But fake news is a term also often used by Duterte’s supporters and for them, it means something very different.
Often critical of mainstream media outlets she calls “presstitutes,” Uson said she would fight fake news after being appointed to the PCOO position in May last year.
“To those asking what I will do at the PCOO, what I will focus on at the PCOO is to bring the ordinary Filipino closer to the government using social media. And to directly give our countrymen the right news using social media,” Uson wrote in Filipino in a Facebook post.
“Join me fellow DDS (Duterte Diehard Supporters). It is time we stop depending on fake news from some mainstream media outlets and strengthen social media with your help, the true DDS. Because we are Father Digong’s (Duterte) media.”
And it’s not just Duterte’s supporters that have used the term “fake news” to discredit the media.
Like United States President Donald Trump, Duterte has also accused news outlets of spreading erroneous information.
In January, he called social news website Rappler “fake news” for publishing an article that reported how Duterte’s Special Assistant Bong Go allegedly intervened in a PHP15.5 billion (approx. US$300 million) project to acquire ships for the Philippine Navy.
“You can stop your suspicious mind from roaming somewhere else. But since you are a fake news outlet and I am not surprised your articles are also fake, we can debate. Now tell me where are our lies and tell me where are yours,” Duterte said.
And based on those surveyed by the latest SWS report, most Filipinos believe the government is doing its best to solve the fake news problem.
61 percent of those surveyed in December said the government was “very serious” or “somewhat serious” in solving the problem.
31 percent were undecided, while 8 percent said it was either “somewhat not serious” or “not serious at all.”
So is this telling of how most Filipinos define fake news?