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YearEnder: When fake news becomes legit.

MANILA, Philippines (First published 12 a.m.

, December 27) "Fake news" seemed to have become the new normal in 2017. With information easily spread through social media, cases of misinformation, distortion of truth and even fabrication of "facts" have become one of the most common problems among online users. Last November, an English dictionary publisher even chose "fake news" as its 2017 Word of the Year.

Defined as "false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting," Collins Dictionary said "fake news" saw an unprecedented usage increase of 365 percent since 2016. The increase may be attributed to the repeated use of the term in the political landscape, particularly by United States President Donald Trump, who often brands reports critical of him and his administration as "fake news." "It has been derided by the leader of the free world and accused of influencing elections, but 'fake news' is today legitimate news as it is named Collins' Word of the Year 2017," said the dictionary.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 In the Philippines, critics of President Duterte regularly call out his followers online for spreading supposed fake news. The Senate even conducted a hearing on the matter, grilling pro-administration bloggers such as Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) assistant secretary Mocha Uson over some of her posts on her social media accounts.

Uson, also a columnist for The STAR, was criticized for sharing unverified information, including some that were outright misleading. In May, Uson used the term "symbolism" as an excuse for using in her Facebook post a photo of Honduran soldiers and mislabeling it as that of Filipino soldiers.

She said the image was merely a representation of Filipino soldiers engaged in the Marawi conflict. PNA blunders

The Philippine News Agency (PNA) was also forced to apologize numerous times this year for errors in some of the reports published on its website.

Following the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippine human rights situation in Geneva, Switzerland, the PNA released a report claiming that 95 nations were convinced that no extrajudicial killings happened in the country. However, interior assistant secretary Epimaco Densing III denied that he was the source of information, prompting the PNA to update the story.

Like Uson, the news agency also used a wrong photo in one of its reports about the Marawi siege. The photo, which showed soldiers seemingly investigating a house while residents looked on, was later discovered to have been a cropped version of a photo of Vietnamese soldiers uploaded on Wikimedia Commons.

The PNA also mistakenly used the logo of Dole Philippines, producer of pineapples and other fruits, instead of the logo of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in one of its stories in August. The news agency's website was also taken down in September after several draft articles were mistakenly published online.

READ:PCOO, PNA staff to undergo journalism training "While there have been lapses in our judgment, it has never been the policy of PNA to tolerate erroneous report, and it has certainly never been our intention to sow misinformation, much less share what is termed nowadays as fake news," the PNA said in one of its apologies. "We regret that these mistakes have cast doubt on our integrity as a news agency.

Rest assured we have dealt with our erring personnel and that we are reviewing our procedures on reportage as we continue to uphold our commitment to deliver accurate and balanced news reports to the Filipino people and the world," it added. More 'fake news'

In addition to PNA, officials and other government agencies also became subjects or were accused of spreading false information.

Senators criticized Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II in June after he claimed that several opposition lawmakers met with political leaders of Marawi City before the clashes erupted. He showed a photo of the supposed meeting, which later turned out to have been taken in Iloilo City in 2015. Following criticisms, Aguirre clarified that he was misquoted by the media, a claim that was denied by journalists who attended the press conference.

Also in relation to the Marawi siege, former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Ann Rosales decried the spread of false information showing her supposed support for the Maute terrorist group. "I am denouncing those responsible for spreading this malicious information saying I sympathize and take pity on the Maute group.

This is fake and malicious news," she said. The University of the Philippines also denied circulating posts claiming that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was a graduate of the UP College of Engineering.

The CHR, meanwhile, repeatedly denied various claims by critics, including one about the supposed issuance of an executive order subjecting the terms of office of its officials to the will and pleasure of the chief executive. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also had to issue a clarification in February denying the release of information claiming that the "Big One," or the strong earthquake caused by the West Valley Fault, will happen between Feb.

24 and March 8. "We cannot predict when or where an earthquake will happen.

There is no reliable technology in the world that can confidently predict the date, time and location of large earthquakes," said the agency. "What we do is prepare earthquake scenarios of hazards and impacts to be used as guide for mitigation, preparedness and response," it added.

Addressing 'fake news'

Aside from the Senate hearing, several initiatives have been launched to address the spread of misleading or fabricated information. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility this year launched FakeBlok, a plug-in that allows internet users to report dubious websites.

Social media giant Facebook also assured the public that it is taking various measures to address the proliferation of fake news and misinformation on the popular online platform. "We take misinformation seriously.

Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information," the company said. "We've been working on this problem for a long time years and still have more work to do.

A few months ago we previewed some of the things we're working on to address the issue of fake news and hoaxes," it added. Facebook also held a news literacy seminar for journalists and media practitioners to help them maximize the use of the social media platform for news gathering and dissemination.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Dec 27, 2017
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