Sunstar editorial art
Credit: John Gilbert Manantan / SunStar

Disinformation, the deliberate spread of misinformation, was a problem in the past elections and still is as the Philippines is just less than three months from this year’s elections.

False stories, claims and propaganda are like parasites creeping on social media even before the start of the official campaign period for local candidates in the May 9 elections.

These lies could infect ordinary voters who are either lazy to verify the information they just came across, or just believe the lies as gospel truth.

Efforts from social media giants like Facebook, despite their promises to go after fake news, are still wanting.

To help educate the public and voters about what is true or not, several groups were formed for the sole purpose of fighting disinformation on social media. One group calls itself, a fact-checking collaborative effort composed of 34 civil society groups, media organizations and academic institutions. The group’s mission is to “counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.” coordinator Rachel Khan, associate dean of University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, describes the group’s efforts in a recent television interview as a “David and Goliath fight.”

Khan said old fake stories resurfaced again and again, and has to repeatedly debunk them.

The fight against disinformation is a long fight, and the 34-member is certainly the David in the battle for truth.

If the group surrenders, falsehoods would be triumphant. Khan said the group wants to “put people in a fact-checking state of mind and to build media literacy.”

This is a noble aim, and it requires patience and perseverance as there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals and groups that engage in disinformation for the benefit of their patrons running in the 2022 elections.

A well-informed voter makes wise choices; a misinformed voter makes unwise decisions, which could be a contributing factor to a government being led by dishonest leaders.