DPWH “hoax photo” shows the dark side of the Web

The Inbox

The recent brouhaha over the manipulated photos of the officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) show a different side of the Web—the side where hoaxes can spread faster via social networks.

This blog called "Controlled Chaos" exposed a doctored photo of three public works and highway officials, which revealed a fabricated snapshot that appeared on the agency's Facebook wall.

The photo shows three officials near the damaged Manila Bay seawall. But, upon closer inspection, the blogger revealed that the officials on the photo were "floating on air."

The blogger also expressed disgust at how the administrators of the Facebook page could have gotten away with the unnecessary" practice amid the administration's policy against government officials wielding their power. The blogger's intentions were sound—he merely wanted to expose what he perceived as a "hack job."

AP has reported that the agency has suspended an overeager employee who was behind this photo.

This photo has now spawned other copycats and is now spreading over social networks like Facebook. In particular, the DPWHERE? Facebook fan page encourages users to submit their own "Photoshopped" version of the same image. Many of the altered photos put the DPWH officials in ludicrous scenarios. (See photo above.)

A Tumblr blog also compiled other spawns of the now infamous photo.

In today's fast-pace digital world, verification of facts, photos, and similar content is completely forgotten. We retweet as fast as we read headlines. We react to news without much thought, but later find out it is a complete hoax.

Even journalists today struggle to weed out the truth from the torrent of information on the web, and, thus, have devised ways to dig the truth from the amount of filth on the Web. As reposting has become easier on the web via social networks, verification of facts has become tougher and tedious.

User "Bato," commenting on an AP story asked, "If the Philippine government allows this dishonesty promoting policy...how about other government agencies?"

Many readers were fast to condemn the agency, but a concerned Filipino who declined to be named was suspicious about the timing of the doctored photo.

"Anything that comes out of known corrupt agencies should be taken with a grain of salt," the concerned citizen told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

This concerned citizen also believes that the doctored photo might have been done and posted (as if by accident) to embarrass the agency and the new leaders who are pushing for reforms.

The DPWH has said that the three officials in the photo knew nothing about an altered image. The agency has likewise issued an apology for the controversy, saying the person or persons responsible for posting the image had, perhaps, just had a spell of bad judgment. This hasn't appeased the online public, who have used it to take potshots at the agency.

Ultimately, it's not for us to decide what really transpired "behind the DPWH Facebook wall," so to speak. But, perhaps, we can examine how social networks—and the Web in general—can be used to debunk hoaxes rather than spread them.