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Beneficiality

I. Introduction
a. Importance of Social Media
Social media is becoming the central source of information in our society. Amidst
its numerous positive effects, such as their ability to mobilize for a political cause,
and allow greater and quicker flows of ideas across societies, it may sometimes
negatively impact the public debate.
b. Fake News, defined
Fake news is a deliberate sharing of information by an individual or organization
with the aim of fabricating and disseminating information that is fully or partially
false in nature in order to influence opinion or stir controversy, or for financial gain.
Fake news often includes a grain of truth, but this ‘kernel of true information’ is
twisted, taken out of context, surrounded by false details and so on (Gillin, 2017).
c. Constitutionality
Penalizing fake news on certain grounds is constitutional. It does not violate the
freedom of expression. In the case of Philippine Journalists Inc. v. Thoenen, the
Court says:
There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Neither the intentional
lie nor the careless error materially advances society's interest in 'uninhibited,
robust, and wide-open' debate." The use of the known lie as a tool is at once at odds
with the premises of democratic government and with the orderly manner in which
economic, social, or political change is to be effected. Calculated falsehood falls
into that class of utterances which "are no essential part of any exposition of ideas,
and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be
derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and
morality. The knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless
disregard of the truth, do not enjoy constitutional protection. ||| (Philippine
Journalists Inc. v. Thoenen, G.R. No. 143372, [December 13, 2005], 513 PHIL
607-625)

II. State is justified because the real impact of the growing interest in fake news has
been the realization that the public might not be well equipped to separate quality
information from fake information.
a. Fake News and The Citizen’s Decisions
The possibility that that the public may not be well equipped in separating quality
information from fake news was already recognized by the Court in the case of
Lagman v. Medialdea.
Ignoring the cultural context will render this Court vulnerable to accepting any
narrative, no matter how far-fetched. A set of facts which should be easily
recognized as unrelated to rebellion may be linked together to craft a tale of
rebellion which is convincing only to those unfamiliar with the factual background
in which the story is set. Blindly accepting a possibly far-fetched narrative of what
transpired in Marawi leading up to and including the events of May 23, 2017 and
ignoring the cultural context will have its own consequences. The public will accept
this far-fetched narrative as reasonable or the truth, when it could be nothing but
"fake news." In turn, the government may be inadvertently doing a service for
Maute Group and ISIS projecting them as bigger than what they really are.|||
(Lagman v. Medialdea, G.R. Nos. 231658, 231771 & 231774, [July 4, 2017])
b. Factors influencing the public to believe in fake news:
i. Filipinos’ Ignorance of Cultural Context
The case of Lagman v Medialdea recognizes ignorance of the cultural context
as a factor which can lead the public and even the court to believe in fake news.
Fake news may be apparent only to persons who are familiar with the factual
background in which the story is set. Prof. Felipe M. De Leon, Jr., in an article
published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts said that “our
educational system remains colonial rather than culturally appropriate.” The current
educational system causes the lack of cultural awareness among the Filipinos.
Hence, the public who have no sufficient background of the cultural context of the
supposedly false event is vulnerable to accepting any narrative.
ii. Public’s Credulity on Fake News, if consistent with what they believe
Psychologist Kruglanski (2017) said that information, whether false or true,
which postulate a particular outcome may appeal and be readily accepted, if such
information is consistent with what a person would want to believe.
iii. Lack of education
An uneducated person may be particularly prone to a motivational bias. In
contrast, educated people are less likely to fall prey to fake news in their domain of
expertise. Recent research on the acceptance of fake news finds that more educated
people and older people (who presumably have greater experience) were less
vulnerable to fake news (Kruglanski, 2017).”
Almost ten percent of the estimated 39 million Filipinos 6 to 24 years old
were out-of-school children and youth (OSCY), according to the results of the 2016
Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS). Penalizing the publication of fake news
is beneficial to out-of-school youth who are more prone to believing fake news.
c. Fake News and Political Decisions
i. One particular piece of fake news—the story about Pope Francis allegedly
endorsing Donald Trump—was shared millions of times. Bearing in mind
that there are approximately 70 million Catholics living in the US, for whom
Pope Francis is the unquestionable spiritual leader, the effect of such a story
may have been significant in the election of the Donald Trump as the
president of the United States (Tufekci, 2016).
ii. Another famous fake news is the ‘Lisa case’, dating back to the beginning
of 2016, is an example of possible foreign interference. The story, which
circulated in Germany, claimed that a girl of Russian origin named Lisa had
been raped by refugees from the Middle East (NATO, 2016). The story was
untrue but went viral, causing widespread outrage against refugees and
prompting official condemnation from Russia. Such created a divide
between the refugees and Russians, proliferating hate.
iii. The abovementioned cases are proof that fake news is hostile to the political
decisions of citizens. Baseless opinion or those based on fake news
propagate unnecessary negativity rather than sound opinions. Regulating
fake news would lead to a more reasonable decision-making process
amongst citizen that would create a better impact in the society.
iv. How media rebuilds public trust in quality journalism will be a major
question in the coming years, and not just for academics and students of
mass communication. The information crisis is one that touches on the
prospects for democracy. The rise of propaganda, hate-speech and self-
regarding politics with an extremist edge threatens stability and peace both
within countries and abroad.

III. Polarization effects to individuals and society at large


a. “Polarization tends to trigger motivated reasoning — an unconscious, biased way
of processing information which makes even smart people believe in falsehoods
that support their ideological and partisan predispositions.”
b. Lim (2018), in his article “Combating Fake News” states that fake news or false
information has already polarized an already divided nation, like the Philippines.
The normative effect of the problem can be seen from the fact that people are
choosing what “truths” to believe in, which may be shared and accepted by the
majority of the population. Since fake news sways public opinion and injuriously
affects a country’s ability to govern itself, it is beneficial to the proper workings of
a democratic nation to penalize fake news.
c. People are much more likely to believe stories that favor their preferred candidate
even if such statements are false (Hunt, 2017). Moreover, people would just label
as “fake” any information they do not agree with. (Ribeiro, 2017). Even smart
people believe in falsehoods that support their ideological and partisan
predispositions. Recent study results suggest that fake news did have a significant
impact on the vote in the US Presidential 2016 election (Gunther, 2017). There is a
need to penalize fake news as it can adversely influence the results of election,
which makes a fundamental contribution to a democratic government.
d. As Thomas Jefferson emphasized: “A well-informed electorate is the bedrock of
democracy. By the same token, a misinformed electorate undermines the logical
base of rational governance. It is essential to restore people’s confidence in reliable,
fact-checking sources, and reduce media bias whether perceived or real.”
e. The gravity of the problem has been recognized by political leaders. In the wake of
the US presidential election campaign outgoing president, Barack Obama admitted
that ‘if we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t
discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems’.

IV. Mistrust is the poison that destroys every society. Using fake news, this poison is
injected in small doses.
a. Fake News and Democracy
i. Fake news is a real danger to democracy, as political choices should be
based on facts and informed opinion, not lies (Wang, 2017). When people
start to believe fake news instead of genuine information, it corrupts the
credibility of democratic society’s system for information sharing. The
lack of trusted bearings undermines the very structure of society (Hofseth,
2017). Hence, regulating fake news would benefit the society it would
provide for a more credible information platform for the citizens in their
political choices.
b. Consequences to mass media
Fake news can make people turn off mainstream news through fear of
“hidden agendas.” A global survey has revealed twice as many people distrust the
media as trust it, a third of people say they are watching less news than they used
to. This distrust creates more problem because people can become increasingly
vulnerable to polarising and extremist messages from other less trustworthy
sources (Ball, 2018).
Facebook, Google and Twitter's failure to deal with the damaging effects
of fake news has created a broad distrust in social media platforms, search engines
and news applications, reports the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 -- a survey of
more than 33,000 people in 28 countries.
c. Consequences to readers
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer report discovered that large numbers
of people (63%) said they could not trust themselves to know if a news story was
from a reputable journalistic source or "tell good journalism from rumor or
falsehoods."

References
Gillin, J., ‘Fact-Checking Fake News Reveals How Hard It is to Kill Pervasive “Nasty Weed”
Online’, Punditfact, 27 January 2017, accessed at
http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/article/2017/jan/27/fact-checking-fakenews- reveals-how-
hard-it-kill-p/
Wang, S., ‘A Threat to Society: Why a German Investigative Nonprofit Signed on to Help Monitor
Hoaxes on Facebook’, NiemanLab, 16 February 2017, accessed at
http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/02/a-threat-to-societywhy-a-german-investigative-nonprofit-
signed-on-to-help-monitor-hoaxes-on-facebook/
Hofseth, A., ‘Fake News, Propaganda and Influence Operations—A Guide to Journalism in a New
and More Chaotic Media Environment’, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 14 March
2017, accessed at http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/news/fake-news-propaganda-and-
influence-operations-%E2%80%93-guide-journalism-new-and-more-chaotic-
media?utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral
Tufekci, Z., ‘Mark Zuckerberg is in Denial’, The New York Times, 15 November 2016, accessed
at http://nyti.ms/2eAFNRH
NATO Review. (2016). “The "Lisa case": Germany as a target of Russian disinformation”.
https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2016/Also-in-2016/lisa-case-germany-target-russian-
disinformation/EN/index.htm
Ball, J. 2018. Distrust of social media is dragging traditional journalism down. The Guardian.
De leon, F. 2011. In Focus: Cultural Identity and Development. Office of the President, National
Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from: http://ncca.gov.ph
Edelman Report. 2018. Media Now Least-Trusted Institution Globally. Edelman Trust Barometer
Reveals Record-Breaking Drop in Trust in the U.S.
Gunther, R. 2017. Fake News Did Have a Significant Impact on the Vote in the 2016 Election:
Original Full-Length Version with Methodological Appendix. Ohio State University
Hunt, A. 2017. Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. NBER Working Paper No.
23089. NBER Program(s): Political Economy
Kruglanski, A. (2017). Why do People Believe Fake News? National Center for the Study of
Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism, University of Maryland
Lagman v. Medialdea, G.R. Nos. 231658, 231771 & 231774, [July 4, 2017]
Lim, F. anuary 4, 2018. Combating Fake News. Retrieved March 28, 2018 from:
http://business.inquirer.net/243489/combating-fake-news#ixzz5AxhtKo6z
Philippine Journalists Inc. v. Thoenen, G.R. No. 143372, [December 13, 2005], 513 PHIL 607-
625
Philippine Statistics Authority. 2017. One in Every Ten Filipinos Aged 6 to 24 Years is an Out of
School Child and Youth. Retrieved, March 28, 2018, from: https://psa.gov.ph/
Ribeiro, M. (2017). “Everything I Disagree With is #FakeNews”: Correlating Political Polarization
and Spread of Misinformation. Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais Belo Horizonte, Minas
Gerais, Brazil