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Mocha Uson Blog and the Prevalence of Facebook Fake News: Argumentative Thesis

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Abstract

The essay discusses the pervasiveness of fake news on Facebook as well as the role of the Mocha Uson Blog. The author discussed how Facebook fake news is viewed in both the international and Philippine setting and the perceptions of netizens therewith. The essay also showed the biography and career of Mocha Uson, and how Mocha Uson Blog affected the social platform.

The author analyzed the Mocha Uson Blog and the mainstream media news outlet using the Gratification Theory (UGT) of Katz, Blumber & Gurevitch, and the Agenda Setting Theory of Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw.

Introduction

Technology plays a great role in delivering news and information to the public especially the millennials and Generation Z. The revolution in telecommunication started in the early 20th century with the development pioneered by radio communication.

The prevalence of online media in social internet platforms gained popularity in recent years since print media (although arguably) continues to lose its vigor in the industry and thus some say it may actually die in the coming years.

However, one of the backlashes of this technological advancement in communication lies with the ubiquity of fake news and the effect thereof on the country and its citizenry.

According to Ford (2014) with the evolution of technology, people had gained access to information online, which let the public broaden their political, social, and economic freedom. In this age, social media dominates the modern form of communication. Initially, social media was formed to connect people across the globe. However, as time passed, its use broaden in scale.

Social and Mainstream Media, an Overview

According to the results of the study made by (S., Chung, Tsay-Vogel, & Kim, 2015), people rely more on new media channels as their primary source of information than the traditional way of news media. However, it has been found that news as a reliable source depends on the person; news consumers disregarded the idea that social media is a reputable source, but not all of them, younger people, tend to find it reliable while older consumers do not (Pew Research Center, 2016).

Younger internet users found Facebook as a dependable media source and prefer this medium for it also allows the users to exchange ideas as well as lets them criticize the news that is posted online (Winter, Brückner, & Krämer, 2015). As of today, Facebook is the widely used social media in the Philippines and is broadly known as an information disseminator. Regardless of gender and age, most Filipinos have their account. Internet users are not fond of visiting news media sites and buying newspapers, hence they rely mostly on news found in social media, especially on Facebook.

Mocha Uson Blog

Margaux Justiniano Uson, known as Mocha Uson was born in Dagupan, Philippines to the late Oscar Uson, a Regional Trial Court Judge, and Estrellita Uson, a pediatrician. After graduation, she studied medicine at the University of Santo Tomas but later left and dropped out to pursue a modeling and music career and later founded the Mocha Girls.

Mocha became infamous for her sex-related blogs which hit millions of views before the presidential campaign began. However, during the 2016 Philippine presidential elections, her blog shifted more to the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs. She has over 5 million Facebook followers as of writing.

Her blog also targeted newsgroups such as ABS-CBN, GMA, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Rappler. She also criticized political personalities like Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Trillanes, and Senator de Lima.

Due to her wide reach and influence, in August of 2016, she was allegedly appointed by the Bureau of Customs as social media consultant which she later denied.

The Bureau of Customs issued an official denial on its Twitter account stating: 'Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon will not appoint Mocha Uson as BOC Social Media Consultant but she can write articles about BOC on her blog” (Upclosed, 2017).

On May 8, 2017, Uson was officially appointed by the President of the Philippines himself as the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) assistant secretary.

However, Uson resigned from her post as assistant secretary as there were several issues thrown during her term.

Fake News: The Philosophical Standpoint

According to Gelfert (2018), fake news is a species of disinformation. Like fake news, disinformation derives from a prior, philosophically more “respectable” notion: the notion of information, which in recent years has led to burgeoning literature in the philosophy of information (Florida 2011).

The term fake news has gained considerable attention from experts and has been subjected to extensive conceptual analysis. Literally speaking, as disinformation is a species of information so is fake news, a form of news. However, this may create a notion of the logical fallacy of false equivalence as to the lowest and highest forms.

Fake news is a deliberate presentation of (typically) false or misleading claims as news, where these are misleading by design (Gelfert, 2018).

Fake news has always been there even before, however, the only difference now is it replicates and travels faster than how it used to be. Agenda-setting theory in communication plays a great part in explaining the influence of fake news on social media platforms.

Naively accepting reports without further analysis comes dangerously close to committing the fallacy of the argumentum ad verecundiam (i.e., the fallacy of submitting to a potentially irrelevant authority); trust in putative epistemic authorities is by necessity provisional, and basic critical questions—concerning the credibility of the source, its reliability, motives, interests, consistency and track record—should never be entirely suppressed (Walton, 1997). The abundance of (tentative) definitions that have been floated has led some to worry that the heterogeneity of the term ‘fake news’ results in it becoming “a catch-all term with multiple definitions” (Lilleker, 2017). Others have urged journalists, in particular, to “stop calling everything ‘fake news’” (Oremus, 2016).

Fake News: The Media Standpoint

Media practitioners refer to the phrase fake news as an information disorder, which consists of three categories namely: 1) misinformation; 2) disinformation; and 3) mal-information, in contrast to the above more philosophical standpoint, which only refers to fake news as a species of disinformation.

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According to Wardle and Derakhshan, fake news conflates two notions: misinformation and disinformation. It can be helpful, however, to propose that misinformation is information that is false, but the person who is disseminating it believes that it is true. Disinformation is information that is false, and the person who is disseminating it knows it is false. It is a deliberate, intentional lie, and points to people being actively disinformed by malicious actors. A third category could be termed mal-information; information, that is based on reality, but used to inflict harm on a person, organization, or country (Wardle & Derakhshan, 2018).

It is evident that this information disorder was taken advantage of in many electoral processes in different countries. These politicians weaponized the ignorance of the people to fuel their wrongful motives.

Powerful new technology makes the manipulation and fabrication of content simple, and social networks dramatically amplify falsehoods peddled by States, populists, politicians, and dishonest corporate entities, as they are shared by uncritical publics. The platforms have become fertile ground for computational propaganda, ‘trolling and’ ‘troll armies’; ‘sock-puppet’ networks’, and ‘spoofers’. Then, there is the arrival of profiteering ‘troll farms’ around elections (Posetti & Ireton, 2018).

Fake News in the Philippines

Fighting fake news may seem like fighting in World War 2 with a blindfold. We do not know our enemies who hide behind their computers attacking the ignorant and confusing the educated. Unless you have some powerful computers and a geeky mind, you may be able to track these trolls lurking around the internet.

Regulation is one route many countries take to resolve the issue of fake news. However, advocates of freedom of speech, warn that by doing so may harm the open engagement that the modernity of technology has enabled. Especially, if an authoritarian is seated as the highest official of the land, who can use his/her power to manipulate and decide what is fake and what is not in regard to criticism of their performance.

In the Philippines, Social Weather Stations (SWS) said that of the 42 percent or at least 44 million Filipinos who use the internet on a daily basis, at least 29 million said in March 2018 that fake news is a serious problem. It also revealed that 60 percent of adult Filipinos believe that the problem of fake news in mass media is serious (29 percent very serious, and 31 percent somewhat serious (Inquirer, 2018).

Recently, social media has been plagued with issues of fake news. Even the big news outlets are accused of false reports and misleading headlines.

Mocha Uson has been alleged by many netizens to be the main purveyor of fake news in the Philippines. Rappler’s Pia Ranada is one of the fervent critics of the administration including Mocha’s alleged fake news propaganda in her blog. However, Uson disagreed, telling her millions of followers of her Facebook blog that Rappler has been publishing 'fake news” (GMA News Online, 2018). Uson, also insisted that her blog is based on the truth that the media does not want to show the public. Here, we can see how agenda-setting theory takes place.

Bernard Cohen (1963) stated: “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.”

Facebook: a Medium of Fake News Propaganda

Since the 2016 US presidential election, social network sites have acknowledged the issue of fake news as well as their roles in spreading it. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have made efforts to address the problem, instituting a number of measures aimed at stemming the spread of misinformation and disincentivizing those that spread it But how useful have those efforts been? Researchers at Stanford University and New York University say at least in Facebook's case, they may be working (Locklear, 2018).

Facebook has been very ardent in facing the issues of fake news as the platform has been constantly branded to be the home of fake news propaganda. The Philippines, where most people have a Facebook account, has been bombarded with issues of fake news, especially with the current administration.

The prevalence of fake news as demonstrated by the study of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) has been a huge fuss, especially on Facebook. There has been many online threads and discussion as to whether a page or an account is a fake news propagandist or not. Netizens often refer to the people behind the scheme as “trolls”.

The administrators of the social media giant have recently taken down many pages and groups on Facebook as it began to implement its strict compliance against the propagation of fake news.

However, the identification of a site as fake news draws a lot of flak from netizens. One Facebook comment read that the determination of the sites as fake news is subjective and prone to biases.

The fake news sites blocked by Facebook were among those included in the list of fake news websites earlier identified by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (The Philippine Star, 2018).

Facebook announced that it tapped Vera Files and Rappler for a third-party fact-checking program in the Philippines to address the spread of false news among Filipino users of the social media platform (The Philippine Star, 2018).

Conclusion

Following the theory set forth by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, setting the agenda for a specific audience, the netizens in this case, affects greatly on how people perceive things, especially in the political arena. The author also believes that the prevalence of fake news in the Philippines is very rampant as evidenced by the results of surveys shown above.

Mocha Uson Blog, although branded by many netizens as a fake news propagandist due to several errors in her posts, and writing, is not considered fake news because of the following:

    1. Mocha Uson Blog is still existing on Facebook with millions of followers.
    2. Rappler, given the duty to be a third-party fact-checking by Facebook, didn’t list Mocha’s blog as fake news despite the conflict between both parties as mentioned in the essay.

Freedom of speech is a right of every citizen. However, it should be regulated so as not to be abused. Partisanship – even the rabid type – is not a crime. No blog should thus be suspended for being partisan. Fake accounts and paid troll comments must be taken down but (real) people and groups must be allowed to speak (Abao, 2016).

In the same way, this privilege given to Mocha Uson is applicable even to the critics of the administration.

Pointing out the Uses and Gratification Theory (UGT) of Katz, Blumber & Gurevitch in 1974, the theory posits that the receiver takes an active role in selecting a medium, interpreting and thenceforth integrating it into their lives. It holds the audience responsible for the choice of their medium to gratify themselves. Hence, the prevalence of fake news and the Mocha Uson blog solely depends on the choice of news outlet netizens read. After choosing the medium to gratify themselves, the agenda-setting theory takes place when the chosen medium poses the agenda in the sense that it may not exactly tell you what to think, but it may tell you what to think about and how important it is (McCombs, 2003).

References

    1. Abao, C. V. (2016, November 5). The curious case of the Mocha Uson blog. Retrieved from www.rappler.com: https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/151250-curious-case-mocha-uson-blog
    2. BBG Communications. (2013, March 24). BBG Communications Corp. Retrieved from BBG Communications Corp: http://www.bbgcommunicationscorp.com/web-based-communications/article/18.php
    3. Gelfert, A. (2018). Fake News: A Definition. Informal Logic, 85-117.
    4. GMA News Online. (2018, February 20). GMA News Online. Retrieved from GMA News Online: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/644080/mocha-uson-to-rappler-rsquo-s-pia-ranada-lsquo-press-freedom-na-kaagad-rsquo/story/
    5. Inquirer. (2018, June 12). Inquirer. Retrieved from Inquirer: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/999925/sws-majority-of-filipino-netizens-say-fake-news-is-prevalent-on-internet
    6. Lilleker, D. G. (2017). Evidence to the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee ‘Fake news’ inquiry presented by the Faculty for Media & Communication. Bournemouth University.
    7. Locklear, M. (2018, September 14). Researchers say Facebook’s anti-fake news efforts might be working. Retrieved from www.engadget.com: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/14/facebook-fake-news-efforts-working/
    8. McCombs, M. (2003). The Agenda-Setting Role of the Mass Media in the Shaping of Public Opinion.
    9. Oremus, W. (2016). Stop calling everything fake news. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2016/12/st
    10. Posetti, J., & Ireton, C. (2018). Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation. UNESCO. 2018.
    11. Rappler. (2018, October 3). Rappler. Retrieved from Rappler: https://www.rappler.com/nation/213380-mocha-uson-resigns-from-pcoo-october-2018
    12. S., D., Chung, D. S., Tsay-Vogel, M., & Kim, Y. S. (2015). Who’s Following Twitter? Coverage of the Microblogging Phenomenon by U.S. Cable News Networks. International Journal of Communication.
    13. The Philippine Star. (2018, April 16). Facebook cracks down on Philippines fake news sites. Retrieved from www.philstar.com: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/16/1806377/facebook-cracks-down-philippines-fake-news-sites
    14. UNESCO. (2009). Freedom of Expression, Access to Information, and Empowerment of People. 5.
    15. Up close. (2017). Up close. Retrieved from https://upclosed.com/people/mocha-uson/
    16. Walton, D. (1997). Appeal to Expert Opinion: Arguments from Authority. Pennsylvania: University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
    17. Wardle, C., & Derakhshan, H. (2018). Thinking about ‘information disorder’: formats of misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information. Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation.
    18. Winter, S., Brückner, C., & Krämer , N. C. (2015). Running head: They Came, They Liked, They Commented: Social Influence on Facebook News Channels. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
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Mocha Uson Blog and the Prevalence of Facebook Fake News: Argumentative Thesis. (2023, October 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/mocha-uson-blog-and-the-prevalence-of-facebook-fake-news-argumentative-thesis/
“Mocha Uson Blog and the Prevalence of Facebook Fake News: Argumentative Thesis.” Edubirdie, 09 Oct. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/mocha-uson-blog-and-the-prevalence-of-facebook-fake-news-argumentative-thesis/
Mocha Uson Blog and the Prevalence of Facebook Fake News: Argumentative Thesis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/mocha-uson-blog-and-the-prevalence-of-facebook-fake-news-argumentative-thesis/> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Mocha Uson Blog and the Prevalence of Facebook Fake News: Argumentative Thesis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 09 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/mocha-uson-blog-and-the-prevalence-of-facebook-fake-news-argumentative-thesis/
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