Filipino Youth Digital Activists Fight Fake News and Disinformation

40 youth leaders, advocates, and students vowed to fight fake news and disinformation in the election season as digibaks or digital tibaks. As digital warriors for human rights and democracy, youth leaders from all over Luzon trained for three days under the DIGIBAK: Digital Activism Training for Human Rights Advocacy last March 22-24 at the Hive Hotel, Quezon City.

A portmanteau of “digital” and “tibak” (FIlipino slang for ‘activist’), Digibak training was initially developed by DAKILA in 2011 to empower advocates in using digital platforms and technologies for social advocacies; to effectively integrate technology in advocacy work; and to engage strategically in digital space. It was later re-modified to adapt to the present social and political context under the Duterte administration.

“We have seen in the 2016 Presidential elections how various political camps weaponized the digital media to advance their political campaign and to smear the integrity of their political opponents,” DAKILA Executive Director Micheline Rama said. “As paid trolls work overtime yet again this campaign season, we recognize the importance of arming youth advocates with knowledge and capacity on how to engage in the digital landscape to combat these contents made deliberately to misinform.”

“The same tactics we use to organize ourselves is the same tactics being used for disinformation. Our difference, however, is our values, our purpose, and our advocacies. Don’t lose sight of that,” added Rama.

Inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the three-day training is comprised of eight sessions such as The Revolution: An Overview of the Digital Landscape; The Digital Warrior: The Internet and Self; The Digital Army: The Internet and the Community; The Battlefield: The Internet and Society; The Battle: A Situational Analysis on the Digital War; The Battle Plan: Digital Campaign Strategy; and Our Arsenal: Best Tactics for Victory.

To especially address the weaponized trolling that proliferate in this election period, the training also included a special topic on fake news and disinformation with fact-checking body, Vera Files. In this session, the participants were taught on how to spot and fact-check deceptive contents online. The skills development training also included courses relevant to digital activism such as fundamental understanding of how the digital media operates through the lens of the economic, political, and social context; the nature of its technological infrastructure; power relations in society; and social behavior and culture. It presents the multi-disciplinary approaches to the framework of digital activism and integrates strategies and tools in technology, communication, community organizing, social movement building, creative campaigns and media engagement.

During the training, Rama reminded the youth participants that digital activism is not just about experiencing the platforms, but about maximizing it. “That’s why the power is with you, guys. This is your playground. This is your battle,” she related.

Meanwhile, Active Vista Executive Director Leni Velasco shared that the Digibak training for youth is a part of a nationwide youth movement in the country that pushes for a human rights-based agenda in the elections.

“20 million youth voters or one-third of the voting population this 2019 polls is comprised of youth. There is a wide youth movement brewing for the 2019 elections. Thus, we recognize that their massive online presence to promote a rights-based agenda in governance is instrumental in making positive change happen. Through Digibak training, we equip them to translate their on-ground electoral campaign efforts into a digital campaign,” Velasco said.

Velasco also underscored that the digital activism is not meant to replace on-ground activism, but a tool to amplify it. “With the onslaught of technological advances, the evolution of the concept of digital rights and internet freedom, and the growing attacks on Human Rights and Democracy worldwide, now more than ever should digital activism be strengthened to reclaim the digital space to ensure that rights, dignity and freedoms of people are upheld, protected and promoted. On-ground and online movements for rights, democracy, and justice should simultaneously advance, to amplify each other,” she said.

“Digital Activism trainings for youth leaders are being organized in other cities to build an army of advocates that will defend human rights online and offline, at all times,”Velasco concluded.

On March 30, Digibak also trained youth leaders of Iloilo City. The Digibak Training is an initiative of DAKILA through its  Active Vista Learning Center with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Philippines.

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