'Fake news' should be con­sid­ered form of elec­tion fraud, says watch­dog

Watchmen Daily Journal - - NATION - (Sofia To­macruz, Rap­pler.com)

MANILA – The Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec) along with so­cial me­dia users should step up ef­forts to factcheck and mon­i­tor “fake news” in the run up to the 2019 elec­tions, elec­tion watch­dog Kon­tra Daya said.

In a state­ment Fri­day, De­cem­ber 7, the group said the preva­lence of mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion on­line is se­ri­ous enough that it may be con­sid­ered a form of elec­tion fraud.

They said pur­vey­ors of “fake news” should be held ac­count­able as part of ef­forts to en­sure clean and hon­est elec­tions.

“The lies, mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion re­sult­ing from the ac­tiv­i­ties of on­line trolls can­not be de­nied…. Any at­tempt to de­ceive the elec­torate should be ex­posed and those re­spon­si­ble for it should be made ac­count­able,” Kon­tra Daya said.

The Com­elec ear­lier an­nounced it was eye­ing to in­clude can­di­dates’ so­cial me­dia cam­paigns in its rules on cam­paign spend­ing lim­its. Part of what the Com­elec wanted to mon­i­tor was the use of “so­cial me­dia spe­cial­ists” or troll farms, and how much money was spent for such.

For Kon­tra Daya, this was an “ac­knowl­edg­ment of the prob­lems that can emerge if so­cial me­dia mis­use and abuse re­main unchecked.”

“The peo­ple are up against an or­ga­nized form of de­cep­tion com­ing from troll farms. Their ob­jec­tive is to spread lies, mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion to vil­ify their per­ceived en­e­mies and pro­mote cer­tain can­di­dates, no mat­ter how un­fit they may be to hold pub­lic of­fice,” the group said.

The Com­elec, though, said that while they wanted to mon­i­tor how much can­di­dates spend for so­cial me­dia cam­paigns, these guide­lines will not limit can­di­dates’ right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

Voter ed­u­ca­tion

Kon­tra Daya said part of mon­i­tor­ing can­di­dates’ so­cial me­dia should also in­clude the pro­mo­tion of fact-check­ing and me­dia lit­er­acy as part of voter ed­u­ca­tion.

The group warned of the dan­gers of fake news pro­lif­er­at­ing on­line. They re­called how so­cial me­dia feeds were filled with false claims from politi­cians and their sup­port­ers in the af­ter­math of the 2016 elec­tions.

“The peo­ple need to re­main crit­i­cal of the in­for­ma­tion they get on so­cial me­dia, most es­pe­cially from tra­di­tional politi­cians whose strat­egy may in­clude ly­ing to the elec­torate just to get their votes,” they said.

They added, “Now, more than ever, we should have a con­certed ef­fort to ex­pose those who help spread 'fake news' and main­tain troll farms as they sow lies, mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion on­line…. We can­not af­ford to have troll farms un­der­mine the polls.”

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