Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files bares lack of guiding definition for “fake news” to “fact check” Facebook!


Some shocking revelations came to light during a televised discussion about the recently-implemented “partnering” of social media giant Facebook with Rappler and Vera Files. Under this “partnership” Rappler and Vera Files will be “fact checking” what Filipinos share over Facebook which utterly dominates social media activity in the Philippines thanks to exclusive “free data” (unmetered data carriage) deals with the country’s biggest telco and internet service providers (ISPs). Invited to discuss this “partnership” in the show was Ellen Tordesillas who represents Vera Files and De La Salle University (DLSU) Political Science Professor Antonio Contreras.

Asked by ANC Early Edition host Ian Esguerra what working definition of the term “fake news” will be applied in the “fact checking” work they will be doing for Facebook, Tordesillas stammered out an incoherent thought stream in response. An annotated excerpt of the discussion can be found here

It was quite evident that Tordesillas had no working definition of “fake news” to work with and was merely bluffing her way (unsuccessfully) through Esguerra’s line of questioning. This is disturbing considering that Facebook, the Philippines’ virtual social media monopoly, will be under the “fact check” governance of these ill-prepared people of now-evident questionable qualifications who are set to apply incoherent (possibly non-existent) frameworks to guide their judgement.

Indeed, the subject of a generally-accepted definition of “fake news” formed the core of a challenge to the inclusion of one of our satellite blogs GRPundit in the list of “Philippine Fake News Sites” put on Wikipedia by a certain Carlos Nazareno (a.k.a. @object404 on Twitter). The challenge directed at the “editors” of that page is documented in my article Editors of the Wikipedia list of Philippine “fake news” sites are not experts on “fake news” where I argue…

What makes the NUJP [an] authority on “fake news”? They use the term loosely and apply it to GRPundit. But accepted definitions of fake news, say from the Collins Dictionary which [defines “fake news” as] “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting” are very clear. GRPundit is an opinion blog that does not pretend to be a news site. You cannot siumply “lean toward” a judgment on GRPundit when (1) there is no compelling evidence and (2) the site itself does not fall within the accepted definition of “fake news”.

The infantile manner with which the “editors” of that Wikipedia page handled the challenge leaves a lot to be desired. And that is after an actual working definition of the term “fake news” was tabled in the dialogue. Imagine a similar scenario but this time at the industrial scale required to “fact check” the entire Filipino community of Facebook users!

These episodes highlight the whole trouble with “thought leaders” who lack the right thinking skills to ply their trade. Thinking skills don’t involve rocket science. In fact, they are built around a 500-year-old concept called none other than the scientific method. One of the core fundamentals of this method is first defining or framing a problem clearly before proceeding to the solutioneering part. At that step alone, wannabe “fact checker” Ellen Tordesillas fails miserably.