Tuesday ∗ 03 Oct 2017

Sotto VS #SilentNoMore, fake news VS opinion, anonymity and double standard

It’s been fascinating watching things unfold: the “outing” of Cocoy Dayao (in quotes, because was he even hiding at all?), the expected united front of Duterte’s lead supporters on social media, the old(er) hands in the blogging and online community standing with Cocoy, the Senate doing an inquiry on fake news, Duterte’s supporters attacking anonymity, and the critical (anonymous) websites pushing back, insisting that it is within their rights to be speaking the way they do, especially at a time when Duterte supporters do exactly the same thing and get away with it.

Angela and I, she with 10 years of blogging and I with nine — real blogging, like writing long-form analyses on our own websites, not long statuses on Facebook pages, thank you very much — have watched things unravel knowing full well that this is nothing more than distraction, but also hoping against hope that this might actually mean talking better about the state of discourse online and how we might address the dissemination of falsity and lies. 

There is much to say, especially for someone who has had the time to monitor, screen cap, keep track of, what is happening on social media — from fake news to troll discourse, mainstream media mishaps to the anonymous blogs, through much of the campaign of 2015-2016, and in the past year of Duterte’s social media army (official and otherwise) and those who form part of the opposition (informal and fluid as that is).

At this point though, and especially given the Senate Inquiry tomorrow, some things need to be clarified about the terms we’re using, how we’re using them, and how these actually exist online, whether as Facebook or Twitter accounts, or as websites or blogs.

Fake News. This seems self-explanatory and yet at a time like this one, here we are stating the obvious: this means news that are false. This is not a new thing — there are laws that penalize the dissemination of false news — what is new is the proliferation of Fake News Sites. Again, self-explanatory: these are are websites that take the format and tone of news and media websites, but the the primary goal is to either (1) skew the news, or (2) spread false news. Spot.ph actually puts together a pretty exhaustive list, to which one must add recent mainstay to Asec Mocha’s Facebook page: Netcitizen.co.

Note that even if these sites might be taking from credible news articles, and merely highlighting a part of the news that was merely mentioned by original source, the reason why these sites lack credibility is because these have no clear standards, no names, no editorial policy behind it. All these sites exist on anonymity.

Opinion Blogs. Radikalchick.com is an opinion blog. It exists on commentary (politics, gov’t), and reviews (arts and culture). All that appear here are my writings and my opinions, and as such if and when I make a mistake, it is also my responsibility to correct those right away, apologize to all concerned. Often corrections happen (even for the five-year opinion column with The Manila Times) when I realize too late that the basis of the opinion is old data.

Mocha’s Facebook Page is not a blog, but it is — as with all of our Facebook accounts — a space where she is free to air her opinions and talk about issues of the day. RJ Nieto’s Thinking Pinoy, Cocoy Dayao’s ProPinoy.net, are blogs, and are also all opinion.

Tomorrow’s Senate Inquiry is borne of Senator Sotto’s tirade against the Silent No More website which, on September 26 posted an article entitled “Malacanang Dogs in the Senate: Pimentel, Sotto, Gordon, Villar, Zubiri, Honasan, Pacquiao.” This refers to Resolution 516, signed by 16 Senators, which “urges government to undertake the necessary steps to stop the spate of killings, especially of our children.”

Two important things about Sotto’s response to SNM need to be addressed. First, that it called him a “rapist.” This was obviously a mistake. The Senator was implicated in the story of the rape of Pepsi Paloma, he was not the rapist. I imagine that SNM will have to face the consequences of that misstep.

Senator Sotto also said:

“I have never seen the shadow of this resolution so paanong did not sign? Obviously parang fake news ito.”

On Twitter, I mention how SNM being an opinion site — not a fake news site — tomorrow’s Senate Inquiry needs to be about responsibly dishing out opinion online. This would be perfect for Asec Mocha, who might be the poster child for the “freedom” of “opinion” in the age of fake news and falsity, but I digress.

The 7 Senators versus Silent No More, is not about the spread of fake news. Someone on Twitter responded that in fact the Senators’ anger at the SNM article is about both its libelous assertions and the fact that it published fake news by saying that the Senators concerned did not sign.

Here’s the problem with that: if Senator Sotto and the Senate are wanting to talk about Silent No More because it told the world that there were seven Senators who did not sign the Resolution, then the rest of mainstream media need to be brought in for reporting exactly the same thing.

That is, GMA News Online, The Philippine Star, Rappler.com, MalayaManila Standard, listed all seven senators who did not sign. Manila Bulletin and DZRH News, listed all 16 who signed, which means we can easily deduce who the seven Senators were who did not sign. The FACT that seven Senators did not sign is built into the fact that 16 actually signed the same Resolution. Stating the 16 Senators as fact — because there’s documentary evidence for the same — already makes the 7 who did not sign just as much a fact.

The story behind why their signatures are not on that document is a different story altogether — as we found out on September 27, when Sotto, Villar, Zubiri, Pacquiao went to town about being excluded from the resolution.

The opinion of SNM about the seven Senators who did not sign, is its own responsibility.

Which brings me back to this: IF the Senate is discussing Silent No More tomorrow because it spreads fake news, then it would be barking up the wrong tree. The website itself is one that’s built on opinion and commentary. It is not in the business of spreading fake news any more than Asec Mocha’s FB Page is. In fact it lives off the same kind of freedom of opinion as the Asec, the major difference being that SNM is anonymous.

Now I’ve never been one to care for anything written anonymously. But it is absolutely ironic that the DDS team is going to town about the anonymity of Silent No More and other opinion pages, when they themselves continue to share anonymously written pro-Duterte websites (be it fake news, propaganda, or opinion).

This is how this works: we either all stand against anonymity, and therefore stop sharing all these pages, whether pro- or anti-Duterte. OR we agree that anonymity is okay across the board, some sites prove their credibility as we go along, others will just be dismissed as fake news, no harm no foul, it’s just a matter of time.

Otherwise, the ka-DDS are insisting that we accept a double standard, where anonymous anti-Duterte pages are unacceptable and even (gasp!) criminally liable, and anonymous pro-Duterte pages are fine, because pro-government.

That’s a double-standard that stands squarely against our freedom of speech and opinion, and unless we are unmasking who’s behind the Duterte propaganda pages and the pro-Duterte fake news sites, then I will stand against government officials picking on Madam Claudia and Pinoy Ako Blog, threatening them with an unmasking.

After all, in a time of an unmasked Duterte when bad behaviour and lying have been normalized, and killings have been rendered acceptable, anonymity is the least of our problems.

Posted in: bayan, gobyerno, information, komentaryo, media, pangyayari, pulitika, social media

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