By DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
N.B. – A campus journalist emailed three sets of questions on media and communication theories as they relate to media work. These are my answers.
How are social and political opinions and stances communicated and disseminated within society or to the public? Are flooding and repetition of a message enough to have people accept or believe it, and are there certain methods for disseminating these ideas and sentiments?
The print, broadcast and online media can disseminate information to a broader audience. While the Internet, particularly social media platforms, can empower ordinary people to quickly and effectively communicate their intended message, we should be level-headed enough to understand that not all people have access to the Internet. In the Philippines, Facebook may be more effective compared to other social media platforms due to the “free data” provided by major telecommunications companies like Smart and Globe.
Depending on the manner and frequency in which it is done, repetition of messages could be perceived as spamming. It could also give an impression of truth if a person observes that it is being shared by different people (especially the more prominent ones in society). In the context of truth-telling, repetition is just one approach and should be done sparingly and carefully. The most effective method of truth-telling is providing factual and contextual accuracy, using languages and platforms that are understandable and accessible to the public (especially the marginalized and underrepresented).
What motivates actors to communicate using mass communication platforms, as well as social media? Specifically, how do the Duterte administration and their supporters use mass communication and social media in pushing certain narratives?
Actors need mass media (including social media) to reach a broader audience. Dyadic communication and group/organizational communication have their own advantages in terms of having a more personal, intimate conversation with a target audience. But mass communication becomes necessary for a sender or source if he or she needs to reach out to larger and largely anonymous audiences.
The Duterte administration and its supporters tend to weaponize laws and the bureaucracy to push their agenda, no matter how deleterious they may be to certain sectors of society, particularly the poor. Just like previous administrations, they have coopted public information systems and made them pro-government propaganda machinery. Privately-owned media are being forced to toe the line lest they end up like ABS-CBN and Rappler. Even social media platforms like Facebook are polluted by coordinated inauthentic behavior with the goal of spreading misinformation and disinformation. Legitimate arguments that are critical of the administration are being overwhelmed by trolls that resort to “fake news,” cyber-bullying and gaslighting, just to cite three major tactics.
How is the current state of misinformation and disinformation spreading on a larger-scale? What could this mean for the future of public communication especially in the approaches taken by the media in delivering information?
“Fake news” has become a global industry. This means that there are certain segments of “fake news” purveyors who earn from doing so online. Of course, there are also certain trolls who do so just for the sheer joy of it, or perhaps blind obedience to the powers that be. The problem is so serious that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are taking steps to delete or suspend suspected accounts, as well as to strengthen their fact-checking mechanisms. Then again, their efforts are still not enough so the public needs to put pressure on them to do much more. Social media platforms are wary about doing gatekeeping as they think it is censorship. They need to be reminded of the normative standards of media work, particularly journalism.
The future of public communication rests on giving relevant media literacy. Audiences should be taught the valuable lesson of asserting and fighting for a media that we all deserve. This means fighting attempts by government to control the media, as well as demanding responsible gatekeeping by the owners of social media platforms.