Television Rules: Bullying etc. Damage Social Media Credibility
By: Luis V. Teodoro
TELEVISION RATHER than social media was the main source of public information on election-related developments during the 2016 campaign and elections. It was not only due to television’s still having the longest reach (90 percent of the population) of all the media compared to that of the Internet, to which 46 percent of the population has access. The near-epidemic of rumors and deliberately misleading information in some social media sites also damaged their credibility as reliable sources of information.
Among these were fraudulent reports before May 9 that Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe were withdrawing from the presidential elections, as well as outright puff pieces in favor of certain candidates posted by their publicists and supporters. Because of the absence of gate-keeping in social media, there was no hindrance to these posts’ being uploaded. They were also replicated by both their original sources as well as by those individuals and groups who access social media for information who passed them on to their friends and/or the public by providing links to the original sources.
The most crucial difference between the new media (the Internet primarily) and the old media (print and broadcast) is their speed and global reach. When newspapers first appeared, they were hailed for both their speed as well as their wider accessibility relative to the slowness and limited reach of traditional and often unreliable information sources such as word-of-mouth, single-item official dispatches, and handwritten news sheets.
The advent of broadcasting further increased the speed with which information could be disseminated, and also boosted the number of people who could access information through the then new radio and TV technologies. In addition to its capacity to speedily inform and to reach an even wider audience, the Internet also enables individuals to become sources of information themselves as well as their own receivers. Netizens can also monitor online information for the purpose of correcting or adding to them.
The resulting torrent of information and these undoubtedly empowering characteristics have their downside. Over the Internet and in social media, the uploading and circulation of information of doubtful veracity and of election propaganda was evident during the last election season. As Pulse Asia President Ronald Holmes declared in a TV interview, “Social media ha(ve) replaced the text blasting used in the past. Social media ha(ve) become part of the propaganda.”
But the partisans of some candidates, in addition to using social media to further their support for their preferred candidates, were in some instances also quick to bully, insult, and even threaten online critics, which in one case led to the filing of charges against those responsible.
Besides the absence of the institutional gate-keeping customary in both print and broadcast media, the ease with which anyone can open several accounts over social media, and to upload posts either deliberately or mistakenly false, also made social media an unreliable source of information during the last elections. In contrast, the television networks provided information that they took pains to verify, and checked the veracity of information that had circulated over social media that turned out to be false. Because of irresponsible use of social media by some individuals and groups, the last elections have further strengthened the reputation of television news as the most reliable and most widely accessible source of information on elections and other matters of public interest.