We now live in a time where thinking alone isn’t enough before clicking something online. With trolls becoming more creative and scammers becoming more resourceful, we must not solely rely on gut feelings or what we think we know. Facebook alone is teeming with fake news and satire posts that are eventually taken seriously by some social media users. Imagine seeing someone share a quote from Darth Vader about how the Philippine president is awesome – that’s absurd for people who know what Star Wars is but for fanatics, it’s just another reason for #PinoyPride. There are also a lot of fake giveaways from posers taking advantage of the pandemic in order to get likes on a page that will eventually be sold for thousands of pesos.
But first, let’s take a quick dictionary dive to see what “fake” means. According to Oxford Dictionary, “fake” refers to something that is “not genuine; counterfeit, or (a person) claiming to be something that one is not”. With this, can we consider Mocha Uson’s post as fake if she’s featuring a photo of PPE donations from SM Malls while talking about the government’s donations? It’s a big YES, because the photo was stolen from a different company and it does not count as “representation” because the image is not a stock photo. (Update: Mocha’s post has been fixed after being called out)
We’re fed up with constant debates over the legitimacy of such posts, so here are some questions to ask yourself before believing what you see on social media:
1. Is the image/quote from a credible or verified source?
Some posts now come with logos of media companies to make them seem like quotes from an “interview” or “public statement”. If there’s a logo, ensure that the material came from a main media page or website. Those reposted by a troll account with “CTTO” in the caption isn’t enough when you don’t where it came from. Let’s say there’s an Inquirer logo, but do you see it on Inquirer’s timeline or website? If the answer is no, then there’s a chance that it’s fake.
Note: CTTO stands for “credits to the owner”. It’s not CCTO nor “CTTO to the owner”. I’ve actually used this before (and I regret it) but that was before I realized that it’s the lousiest way to give credit to someone.
2. Do I know / have I heard of that personality before?
Trolls are creative, especially with names. “Amelia Thermopolis”, for example, sounds pretty familiar but a quick Google Search can show you that she’s a fictional character. There’s also a high chance that real-life people are involved even though they didn’t actually say the statement. Queen Elizabeth, for example, is popular even outside England; however, does she seem like she would dip her toes in PH politics? It’s unlikely.
3. Are there cropped, blurred, or edited parts of the image?
Media companies hire talented graphic artists to work in their newsrooms. Posts from legitimate sources usually look polished. Edited ones, on the other hand, may have a lower resolution due to in-app editing or show blurs/smudges to hide the original content.
4. Does the quote make sense?
Although there’s a possibility that a certain personality made a weird remark about a topic, there are times that such quotes already seem out of bounds. If you’re not sure about the credibility of the person who shared it, always ask: When did s/he say this? To whom was it addressed?
5. Have I seen proof that the quote is legitimate – may it be in the form of actual videos or articles from credible sites?
If the quote has already appeared in other websites or TV stations, there’s a chance that it’s real. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be broadcasted in that much channels – unless someone gets to fool a lot of media entities.
6. Grammar check: Does it have a lot of errors?
People in position have a good grasp of the English and Filipino language. At times, reporters also fix parts that are not understandable. Those who are creating fake posts may try to replicate different personalities’ way of speaking, so always be on the lookout for the smallest details that can give them away.
7. Is the message format familiar/recurring?
Posers and scammers usually use the same format or template of scam messages and fake news. A quick Facebook search of some lines in the caption can show you similar posts that copy-pasted the material. For fake giveaways, it’s the celebrity’s name, prize, and location that usually change. Scammers can use multiple accounts so they won’t get caught.
8. Is the source a blank profile or a newly created one?
There’s a high chance that fake giveaways or misleading posts are published on newly created pages. For those who manage to gain thousands of followers, they can sell the page in the future. For those who are playing safe, they will never be caught for possible cases of defamation or slander – depending on the weight of the wrong information posted.
If you spot fake news, do not hesitate to report the said images to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Keep trying even though Facebook is usually lax about their Community Standards. Sharing fake news may be grounds for NBI investigation now, so always think and do a little research before you click.
Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that sharing a fake quote and defending yourself by saying “I agree with the message, I don’t care if its fake news” only makes things worse for you. Not only are you proliferating fake news, you’re also wasting your access to never-ending data. We sometimes find ourselves fooled by these sneaky social media users, too! However, when corrected by other people online, we leave our pride at the door when presented with FACTS. Our ego wouldn’t be able to help us when we’re at the wrong side of things.
Never stop asking questions when in doubt! The eight we’ve listed above are just common ones. Always remember: It’s better to ask than to assume.
Hope this helps! Let’s make social media sites a better place for everyone.