Alumni Network
FNF Alumni Propose Ways to Fight Disinformation

FNF Philippines Alumni Gathering 2020
FNF Philippines Alumni Gathering © FNF Philippines

“I hope that this gathering will shine a light on these dark days, to gather like-minded people  in a safe space to openly talk about issues surrounding disinformation.” 

With those words, Wolfgang Heinze, country head of FNF Philippines, set the tone for last year’s gathering of FNF alumni, those who have attended seminars in Germany and elsewhere organized and sponsored by the Foundation. 

 In 2020, participants of the seminars “Liberalism and Populism: How Can Liberals Win?” and “Safeguarding Freedom in the Digital World” in Germany, and the study tour “Siri, Snowden, Social Media: Data Privacy and Digital Rights” in Washington shared their insights on the phenomenon of disinformation and how to fight it. 

The annual alumni gathering, the latest of which was held in February 2020 at the German Club, is a networking event for members to catch up with each other and explore areas of collaborating on initiatives that strengthen freedom and liberal values in the Philippines. 

Truth matters

Credible news reporting plays a big role in fighting disinformation. Gerry Bulatao said that “we need to be able to use media to help people understand and uplift people’s thinking and their sentiments... I think at the end, we have to agree that truth matters. So that's freedom, justice, peace, and love. Yet, truth is often not as exciting. Therefore, we will have to find the angles to make truth exciting.” Bulatao was a participant in the seminar on “Populism vs Liberalism: How Can Liberals Win.”

Media literacy, according to Marc Siapno, is equally important. Siapno, who attended the ‘Safeguarding Freedom in the Digital World” seminar, said that “it all boils down to how people are best capacitated to navigate a free world, people who don’t take information at face value and are able to identify  which is harmful or helpful to society.”

For Mikael Co, one solution is to demand transparency from platforms: “We can add or shift strategies concentrating on the process of how lies are spread, rather than just on a singular item and fact-checking it. Yes, we need to attack the lies. However, we also need to attack the whys of it. We need to attack how it's spreading.” Ko attended the seminar “Safeguarding Freedom in the Digital World.”

“Data privacy is actually one way that we can fight fake news,” Matthew Reysio-Cruz said of his takeaway from the study tour in Washington. “Data privacy laws could handicap micro- targeting. Fake news would be a lot less dangerous if it cannot choose its reader or select exactly who sees it. It renders misinformation or disinformation a weapon without a target, because it can easily get lost in the noise if it's not precisely targeted at the people it will have the most impact on.”

FNF Philippines Alumni Gathering 2020
© FNF Philippines

Feelings go viral

It was the 2016 Philippine election that prompted liberals to reflect on strategies to reach voters and potential supporters, recognizing the role of social media in boosting populism.

“Populist leaders use the veil of democracy and the veil of democratic processes to legitimize options that are against liberal democracy and the rule of law. That is why it's very important that we recognize the role of social media and how information is disseminated or how messages are circulated among the Filipinos because this is the basis upon which they draw their support,” Dave Anastacio said of his main takeaway from the seminar “Populism vs Liberalism: How Can Liberals Win.”

“Statements that are outrageous get retweeted or copied and pasted, and consumed more easily than the boring news,” Bulatao said.

 “Studies by experts show that explosive emotion has been metricized by likes, comments, and by reactions to the comments,” Co pointed out.

Overall, social media provided a platform for its users to publicize sentiments to a vast audience. Bloggers who posted attacks on people critical of the administration gained following, drowning out news and credible journalism.