THE disaster brought by Covid-19 has taken centerstage all around the world with the slow-acting damage that engulfs nations as a result of the spread of the virus. Covid-19 has surely taken the spotlight and is given extensive media coverage, but in the shadows, a lingering enigma remains and creeps within the crevices of society, subtly wreaking havoc in its own right: fake news. Although most of society's attention is on the pandemic, and rightly so, the discord that fake news brings poses a danger to the general public as the misinformation that it brings can and has affected many different things.
Truthfully, the root of this problem lies in the lacking of a certain thing: education. Last December 2019, the Philippines became (in)famous as the nation who scored lowest in reading comprehension in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment. Although at first glance, this is what could be connoted as concrete evidence of what we lack, there is another skill, rather a literacy that the Filipino people yet to have which is Media and Information Literacy. The breadth and reach of Media and Information Literacy is long and wide, encompassing several disciplines, including reading comprehension. What makes Media and Information Literacy so important is the fact that it can be used to combat misinformation brought by fake news. Armed with the disciplines and concepts under Media and Information Literacy, past, present, and future issues wrought by fake news can be avoided, if not thwarted.
Sanofi Pasteur revealed that people vaccinated with Dengvaxia were more prone to a more dangerous form of dengue. News outlets and publications caught wind of this finding and it ballooned into a bigger issue than it was. The public then came into the conclusion that it was Dengvaxia that killed those children administered with it. Although no death has been concretely caused by Dengvaxia, the scare that surrounded it impacted the mindset of the Filipino people in such a way that they have become distrusting of vaccines. More and more parents stopped vaccinating their children, believing that it was the right thing to do, and as this trend of anti-vaccination sentiment continued, what resulted was an outbreak of measles, something that could have been prevented had these parents let their children be vaccinated, ensuring herd immunity.
It is by dissecting this unfortunate chain of unvaccinated events with the lens of Media and Information literacy that the root of the problem can be identified, and it is fake news. In this case, fake news in the sense that legitimate information has been negatively twisted, leading to a series of unfortunate events. The blame for the damages caused by misinformation spread lies in both the media and those consuming it.
The blame is to be put on the media because it continually sensationalized the baseless claims that pushed for Dengvaxia's 'deadly nature'. The media failed to consider how different people would interpret the news that they would publish. Attention-grabbing techniques were employed in order to secure traction for the news that they published. The media abandoned their responsibility of securing that the information that they peddle is truthful. Although the content of their news is truthful, it was presented in a way that it could be interpreted in another way, and it was. Surely, with the headlines screaming that the vaccine that the government themselves distributed is actually deadly, more and more people will be attracted to the news article, and most, if not all of them would base their knowledge on the situation solely on that article, solidifying their false belief toward this vaccine, and vaccines in general.
This leads us to the second half of where the blame should be put on: the general public. It is not necessarily their fault that the information fed to them was false, or tampered with, but this could be attributed to the lack of media and information literacy among the general public. The public failed to analyze the information presented to them, thus falling victim to accepting information face-value.
What could have prevented these events was the education of the general public on basic media and information literacy, equipping them with the necessary skills to be able to consume information in such a way that they will be able to understand it fully, and not in a shallow manner. People should be equipped with the means to be able to grasp the constructed nature of information, and with the skills to be able to see whether or not the messages presented to them are made to manipulate. It is with this that the importance of Media and Information literacy is highlighted, and that everyone should be able to determine when the information that they are consuming is biased or manipulated.
Like all other articles, this editorial should not be exempt from the scrutiny of one reading it through the lens of MIL, and it is my wish that those reading this article can be able to read between the lines and become resistant to the lingering evil that is fake news.
Elian Del Mar
Student of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu