Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has identified as fake news “promoters” these three: spammers or unethical advertisers, state actors, and legitimate media.

And legitimate media, he said, pose the “most challenging” threat. Spammers may be removed although it could take time and diligence. State actors like Russia and other countries with their bot armies can be dealt with by the nations attacked such the U.S. which documented Russian meddling in its 2016 elections.


Though the credibility of legitimate media has been shrinking through the years, its journalists tend to be relied more than nameless, unidentified or disguised sources of news. That names of legitimate news organizations are mimicked under fictitious web sites to mislead readers shows that legitimate media still get some trust and attention.

Legitimate journalists have names and faces, their organization with a specific location, and can be held accountable for what they print or broadcast.

That must be why Zuckerberg thinks that fake news originating from legitimate media can inflict more harm than those fabricated by apparently bogus sites. Charges of fake news against, say, just recently, Rappler and a “Manila Times” columnist are more disturbing. The said news organizations are expected to enforce journalism norms, which is only hoped for and not seen in other news sources.


The definition of “fake news” by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), released last April, clearly distinguishes fabricated content from errors in reporting and editing. The first is fake news; the other is violation of standards.

But the distinction doesn’t mean legitimate media cannot be guilty of fake news. But to mistake one for the other, such as calling as fake news a story that didn’t immediately include the side of a government agency is wrongful distortion of meaning.

CCPC, which started its work of defining “fake news” last year, has left open the search for meaning. The harm that “misinformation, disinformation and mal-information” can inflict may be much worse and “complicated” than what many people fear about fake news.

More nuanced

Fake news has become a “more nuanced” issue. Claire Wardle, strategy and resident director of First Draft News, a non-profit research group,

shuns the phrase from her conversation. She told CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter that she hates “f*** news” (articulating the asterisks). It has become weaponized, she said, referring to its use by politicians to any story they don’t like. “We have to respond and just not use the word.”

That, she must know, is reaching for the sky. Word usage is decided by the greater number of people, not by a few who worry over its misuse or abuse.

To Cambodian journalists, it’s like ‘alms for monk prayers’

A survey of the “Journal of Media Ethics” says many journalists in Cambodia believe it is all right to accept bribe. The thinking shared by most of the 29 journalists and 25 trainors and donors in media programs is that it’s something like a quid pro quo: You get prayers and your house blessed by a monk, give him a small gift.

“This is not corruption,” they said.

Cited as reasons by respondents, according to a “Phe Pnom Penh Post” story, low pay ($200-$300 or about P10,000-P15,000 a month), poor working conditions and “general societal” corruption. They believe “the western-oriented concept of ethical behavior among journalists does not work effectively in the Cambodian context.”

Other than the “monk theory”, the explanation is that it is OK to accept a bribe if it is offered and not demanded or asked. Sounds familiar to those who watch media corruption in the Philippine setting. /PAS