PH online news media at 'moderate level of disinformation risk': study

Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2023 06:09 PM

MANILA — Online news media in the Philippines face a "moderate level of disinformation risk," the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) has found in its study, in partnership with the De La Salle University (DLSU).

Cleve Arguelles, reviewer and co-author of the study, said they looked into 35 online news media from July to November 2022, written in English, Tagalog, and Cebuano, with 700 sampled articles.

"Most of the sites are in the yellow category, which is the medium level of risk. Out of all the 35 sites that we have assessed, we found that 25 of these are in the medium risk category. This is the group of sites that has the greatest likelihood of reducing their disinformation risk going forward," Arguelles said Wednesday.

"None of the sites in the Philippines fell into the maximum risk category. Although, 12 out of the 35 sites that we have assessed... fall under the high disinformation risk category...," he added.

On the other hand, one news site was assessed to be at the minimum risk, while nine others received a low risk rating. 

Arguelles said that based on the indicators, online news media "largely performed poorly in reducing operations-related disinformation risks," including editorial principles and practices, comment policies, ownership, and funding.
He noted though that online news media "performed well in reducing content-related disinformation risks," including visual presentation, headline accuracy, article bias, and byline information.

Arguelles urged online newsrooms to "publish editorial standards and principles; set and publish policies on attribution, pre-publication, and user-generated comments and content; as well as publicly make available complete information on ownership and funding structure".
"We also recognize that there's a need for system-wide reforms to help the industry adapt to the unique demands of the digital era and combat its consequent challenges... 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 the media players in the same medium, as well as the obligation to secure appropriate pay and safe working conditions for journalists to ensure competence, dignity, and independence in the profession," he said.
"We also think, lastly, that the Philippine government also plays a crucial role in setting the tone and policy environment and legislation for a media ecosystem with more transparency and less risk for disinformation," he added.

Arguelles said the government must help combat disinformation.
Project leader and co-author Dr. Briane Paul Samson said the study has been sent to the respective news websites.
"There are some of them who already replied. Some of them are sharing that probably, 'You weren't able to find it here'. Because... especially in the operational pillar, we're looking for certain pages on their websites and the information on their website. Some of them were pointing us to where it is exactly," he shared.
"So far, with all of the responses that we got, at least from what we know, all of them are quite positive. There's no hostile response," he said.
Arguelles explained that the GDI risk rating methodology is "not an attempt to identify truth or falsehoods," and they are always open for engagement.
"It does not label any site as a disinformation site or, inversely, as a trusted news site. Rather, the approach that we did in this report is based on the idea that a range of indicators taken together can indicate a site's risk of carrying disinformation or disinforming their readers or their users," he said.
GDI's Talia Hagerty explained the group is "not a fact checking organization," and they define disinformation "from a broader perspective than simply truth or false."
"We're focused on adversarial narratives, and the way that several pieces of content or several pieces of information also start with a kernel of truth, but can be combined and can develop a narrative that leads to a number of parts," she said.
"So when we talk about disinformation, we're talking about adversarial narratives that are financially or idealogically motivated, that are intentionally misleading, that foster long-term social, political, and economic conflicts, and it creates real risk of harm for at risk individuals, for groups and society... or institutions," she added.

Part of the panel discussion were journalists Gemma Mendoza from Rappler and Ellen Tordesillas from VERA Files, who both admitted there is a conscious effort on the part of the media to adapt to digital media.
Amid the advent of digital age and social media, Tordesillas said the core values of journalists remain.
"We always also keep on reminding ourselves not to forget the core values, as we keep up with the digital advances... which is really, number one, is really truthfulness," she said.
The full version of the study will be available on