Disinformation risk ‘moderate’ in PH online media

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MANILA — The findings of a new report showed that significant gaps in operations and editorial integrity have increased the risk level of disinformation of Philippine news websites.

“In reviewing the media landscape for the Philippines, our assessment found that the majority of the domains in our sample have a medium to high risk of disinforming online users,” read the report published by the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and the Dr. Andrew L. Tan Data Science Institute of De La Salle University.

“Overall, the disinformation risk of the sites in our sample does not stem entirely from the quality of the content published. Rather, the main factor that pulled the scores down – and the disinformation risk up – were operational shortcomings,” it added.

The report, titled “Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in the Philippines,” assessed the disinformation risk of 35 news websites by looking into their content and operational policies.

According to the report, 12 sites received high disinformation risk ratings, while 13 were tagged as medium risk. Nine sites were in the low risk range, with only one scoring the minimum. No site received the maximum risk rating.

The country’s average risk rating was 55.32 out of 100, translating to a moderate level of disinformation risk.

In terms of content, the report said Philippine news sites were able to achieve an average score of 85, revealing a limited disinformation risk.

“Most of the disinformation risk factors in the Philippine media market come from weak editorial checks and balances in their newsrooms,” read the report.

“This suggests that significant improvements can be achieved by improving transparency about ownership and funding structure, clearer attribution practices, and stronger policies for ensuring accuracy – be they pre-publication fact-checking policies or error-correction guidelines,” it added.

Specifically, the report recommended that new sites set and publish policies regarding article sources and byline and pre-publication fact-checking and post-publication error correction. They must also disclose their sources of funding and revenue, as well as the persons or legal entities that own and manage their organizations.

“Besides improvements in newsroom practices and policies, in the Philippines there is the need for system-wide reforms to help the industry adapt to the unique demands of the digital era and combat its consequent challenges like online disinformation,” read the report.

“Some of these reforms include the necessity to couple increased democratic access to media using the internet with accountability and transparency on the part of media players in the same medium and the obligation to secure appropriate pay and safe working conditions for journalists to ensure competence, dignity and independence in the profession,” it added.

The report was co-authored by Marinel Mamac, Cleve Arguelles, Gabriel Potestades, Mark Edward Gonzales and Briane Paul Samson.

The GDI is a non-profit group seeking to address disinformation by providing transparent, independent and neutral disinformation risk ratings of news media sites. Its local partner, the Dr. Andrew L. Tan Data Science Institute, is an interdisciplinary research institute of De La Salle University that aims to advance global knowledge and innovations in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

According to the researchers, the GDI risk rating methodology is not an attempt to identify and label which news sites are trustworthy or prone to disinformation.

“Rather, GDI’s approach is based on the idea that a combined set of indicators can reflect a site’s overall risk of carrying disinformation. The ratings should be seen as offering initial insights into the Philippine media market and its overall levels of disinformation risk, along with the opportunities and challenges the sites face in mitigating disinformation risks,” they added.

While it released a list of Philippine news sites included in the sample, the report did not indicate the risk level of each website.

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