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    Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    Columnist: No need for Church-dictated list, use 'common sense' to combat fake news

    “My own prescription to combat fake news without resorting to legal measures or Church-dictated lists, is this: Use your own coconut.”

    That’s what Jojo Robles, a prominent columnist at the Manila Standard, claimed in his online article in response to previous initiatives or campaigns to combat the spread of “fake news” by some identified unreliable news sources.

    Claiming that passing a law that imposes sanction to those convicted guilty of spreading fake news or identifying who the “spreaders” of such fake news are do not actually address the actual problem, Robles wrote that:

    “I don’t understand why some people are railing about fake news the way they are doing now. Because if they really wanted to do something about the problem, they should know that passing a law penalizing its spread (like a senator has proposed) or identifying alleged purveyors of fakery in the hopes of scaring people to avoid them (like the Catholic bishops have done) is really not going to do it.”

    Citing other existing laws as reference that indeed, passing a law would not directly eradicate the spread of fake news, Robles stated that Senator Joel Villanueva’s intent to criminalize the act of fake news proliferation is not feasible, as far as other existing similar laws are concerned.

    “My first problem with Joel Villanueva’s plan is that there are already laws that penalize the malicious spread of fake news, including online. These are the current (though much-criticized) laws on libel and slander, including the cybercrime version that takes care of online violations,” Robles claimed.

    He added, “Why come up with a new law just because spreading fake reports is in vogue again? And, pray tell, how is the new law going to succeed in proving what the existing ones have always had a problem with—the presence of malice?”

    Citing what the constitution has to say about the freedom of expression, which is an absolute resort for any defamatory, offensive, or erroneous claims, Robles claimed that Villanueva’s proposal “could not stand”.

    In the words of the 1987 Constitution: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.” And if malice cannot be established, then any law that abridges that freedom cannot stand,” Robles asserted.

    Also, Robles mentioned Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, to be on a problematic situation. This is brought about by the publication of a controversial list identified by CBCP, published by Rappler, containing names of certain news portals and websites that spread fake and unverified news.

    “The online-only news website Rappler reported that the CBCP drew up last January a list of web pages and social media microblogs that were included in the new CBCP “Index” and gleefully released a “partial list” of these that were, by no small coincidence, were supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Robles speculated.

    Meanwhile, going back to Robles’ conclusion, the journalist had shared in his article a significant analogy that best explains or illustrates this fake-news scenario as well as on how to combat its proliferation.

    “My favorite analogy about news is that of an old-fashioned wet market. You go to a market to check out what’s for sale, but you buy only what you really need and want….The size of the store, the declarations of the vendors as to the virtues of their offerings and the price you pay is really something for you to factor in, if you want…But you will not really get what you want (the truth, in this case) if you don’t check out everything and use your previous experience with the vendors and their products as a guide. You can even produce your own food and do away with going to the market altogether, or become a market vendor yourself,” the columnist explained.

    In the end, Jojo Robles emphasized the value of education which is necessary to help people “discern” and think better, as the best way to fight the spread of fake news. More significantly, Robles highlighted the vital role of “common sense” in such cases.

    “But what people need is to learn how to discern, which requires education instead of the threat of jail terms, fines and even eternal damnation. And teaching requires brains, as well,” Robles ended.

    Source: Jojo Robles | Manila Standard
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