Rappler and UPV collaborate in addressing disinformation at the grassroots

Photo courtesy of Zoe Milabeth Bacnutan and Candido Jose Caleza

By Marie Andrea Pefianco and Pia Dorothy V. Tia

MIAG-AO, ILOILO – To build connections with the grassroots and equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills in responsible digital citizenship through civic engagement, Rappler goes to local communities for the #VoicesFromTheRegion community dialogue and workshop.

“The rising number of social media gadget users in the locality poses an uncontrollable spread of disinformation,” said University of the Philippines’ Visayas (UPV) event focal person Dr. Zoilo Andrada Jr., as he highlighted the Filipinos’ susceptibility to fake news in the virtual-dominated society.

In combating this problem, Rappler’s civic engagement arm MovePH aims to utilize “Voices from the Region” as an avenue to conduct a community dialogue and workshop in the municipality of Miag-ao, Iloilo.

Strengthening ties against disinformation

#VoicesFromTheRegion is UPV’s second partnership event with MovePH after the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation online conference two years ago.

This year’s joint effort with MovePH aligns with UPV’s commitment in the fight against disinformation within local communities.

“UPV serves as one of the voices in expressing and sharing social media experiences; eventually, it leads the community in establishing awareness for responsible digital citizenship,” said Andrada.

This advocacy is highlighted by the university’s BANTALA: UPV Media Excellence Awards that recognizes the contribution of journalists in the region during a time where disinformation and misinformation is rampant.

Together with UPV, college-based student organization and publication iWrite, also partnered with MovePH as one of the facilitators for the event.

iWrite co-adviser Aljohn Torreta, expressed his anticipation to partner with Rappler in the activity. “iWrite primarily serves as a partner in enabling and facilitating a discourse to better understand the relationship between disinformation and the community,” he said.

According to Andrada, the partnership of iWrite with MovePH “will open opportunities to collaborate campus and community journalism workshops and trainings, especially on fact checking,” strengthening the university’s role as one of the voices in combating disinformation.

Perspectives from the community

Since events like #VoicesFromTheRegion are not common in rural communities like Miag-ao, iWrite Editor-In-Chief Egie Gepilano shared the project’s importance to recognize that problems such as rampant disinformation, also happens in the province.

Torreta said the system of fact-checking is a process that is “generally focused in telling the public “what is wrong or deceitful.”

“It is also imperative to understand where these people are coming from. Why were they easily swayed to believe this kind of information? We need to listen to them,” said Torreta.

MovePH highlights this importance through the two-part event: a community dialogue with Miag-ao locals in the morning and a workshop in the afternoon to be held at the UPV Miag-ao Interactive Learning Center (MILC).

The community dialogue will engage the locals to discuss how they use social media in expressing their stories or insights, how it impacts their lives, their experiences, and their attitudes.

Andrada added the importance of engaging with the community at the grassroots level as a crucial measure to gauge their sentiments regarding issues about the use and misuse of social media.

The afternoon workshop will include three major groups such as the academe represented by students and faculty of UPV and Iloilo Science and Technology University-Miag-ao Campus; the different sectors in the municipality; as well as media and other social media organizations.

Role of students in the community

Gepilano emphasized the importance of events like this in empowering students and communities.

“To make them realize the important roles they play in the fight against disinformation, and that they have voices that’s worthy to be heard,” Gepilano added.

He envisions a more open communication between members of the community and media organizations, educational institutions, and student organizations when they have concerns about disinformation.

A student participant from UPV, Jan Paolo Nardo shared that he is looking forward to the meaningful dialogues that will “come from the members of the rural community.”

“Participants will be challenged in understanding and appreciate having a cellphone, a social media account and beyond,” said Andrada.

Voices from the Region is a project of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. The activity will be a dialogue and workshop with partners: Tib-ong Kabataan IncDepartment of Social Welfare and Development Field Office VI’s Pantawid Program Regional Program Management Team, iWrite, and BANTALA: UPV Media Excellence Awards.

Following the activity at Miag-ao, the second leg of Voices from the Region will take place in Guimaras, Iloilo on June 3.