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House moves to educate students on fighting fake news online

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MANILA — A progressive lawmaker will introduce a bill this month pushing for media literacy education in schools to combat fake news.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said she will file a Critical Media Literacy bill following a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing that 67 percent of adult Filipino Internet users believe that fake news on the internet is a serious problem.

In a statement Wednesday, Elago said that while the proliferation of fake news has long been a problem in the country, the increasing number of trolls and mechanisms to disseminate false information to the public only made it more apparent.

“Media literacy is not usually provided as a subject in schools. And if there is one, the curriculum treats an individual as a passive receiver of information given by media, obviously ignoring the role of an individual as a contributor to media, especially online,” Elago said.

“Other than media-related courses in the tertiary level of education, many students do not receive any education on media literacy,” she added.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the latest poll showed that more Filipinos were now seeing the dangers of fake news.

“This is a good development and we hope that this would also encourage more people to be more critical and analytic of what’s happening around them, especially now that so-called fake news being churned out by dubious, even fake websites and sources, are clearly being weaponized to deliberately mislead our people,” Zarate said.

Zarate also expressed hope that the survey result could prompt the House leadership to approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said the poll result should serve as a wake-up call for all the institutions involved in forming and disseminating information that “something must be done by way of policy and discourse for the truth.”

For Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, fake news was a big threat to democracy with more than a third of Filipinos having access to the internet.

“I hope that the Filipinos also realize that the proliferation of fake news evolved out of a propaganda machine designed to harass and destroy the reputation of opposition figures and those who voice dissent,” Baguilat said. (PNA)