by Nathanielle Punay
“Fake news” has become an alarming issue in some parts of the world, but not so in Canada, said journalism professor Kim Kierans.
Kierans, former vice president and former head of the journalism school of the University of Kings College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, said fake news is not a big an issue as it is in the United States, the Philippines and other parts of the world, mainly because the country’s political system is different.
Kierans was the main speaker at a recent forum titled “Fake news and fact-checkers” which also had Avigail Olarte, editor at CNN Philippines and contributing writer at the online news site VERA Files, talking about the fact-checking being done by VERA Files.
In Canada, voters elect local representatives who become members of Parliament, Kierans said. In the Philippines and the U.S., presidential elections are a marathon of news and information from opposing political parties and candidates during which propaganda and misinformation get into voters’ news feeds.
Kierans focused instead on the problem of fake news in the U.S. “What (fake news) does is it undermines the important role of journalism in a democracy and the essential role it plays,” Kierans said.
She added that people are starting to label as “fake news” any article they dislike.
To illustrate this, she revealed the results of a survey done by the American non-profit group Politico that shows almost half of voters in the United States believe that the media is fabricating stories about President Donald Trump.
“History shows that this type of hate-behavior is disastrous for free speech and society,” she said, and stressed that anyone who uses social media sites should be responsible for putting an end to misinformation or disinformation.
Olarte meanwhile said that many items of fake news about officials are being re-posted or re-shared on social media. These articles often resurface when the politician takes the the spotlight out of a statement or action made.
To delay the damaging effects of fake news to the society, Kierans and Olarte urged the audience to learn how to fact-check.
Olarte said in order to determine if a news or statement is “fact-check worthy,” he or she would have to rely mostly on gut feeling and common sense since most fake news are too extreme to be true.
“There are now numbers of organizations around the world doing fact-checking and they now call it ‘accountability reporting’ because anything our politicians say, we have to hold them to account,” Olarte said.
Nathanielle Punay is a journalism senior student of Polytechnic University of the Philippines and an intern of Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University