When trolls tamper with headlines

Posted at 07/31/2014 7:04 PM | Updated as of 07/31/2014 10:47 PM

Beware, the title of an article may be fake

MANILA -- It’s been a frenetic news week from the world of politics to showbiz. Just take a look at the headlines shared on your Facebook timelines: PNOY delivers emotional SONA; PNoy’s latest SONA is his best b—s--t story ever -- Locsin; Trillanes stands by destab plot claim; Mommy Dionisia steals scene on SONA red carpet; Orlando Bloom throws punch at Justin Bieber; Lee Min Ho admits being bisexual. Crazy week, indeed. But beware. Two of these 6 headlines are big fat lies.

Trolls have been very active these days, prowling on genuine news stories, tampering with the headlines, and setting their inanities loose on social media, much to the detriment of netizens who are after legitimate news and information.

ABS-CBNnews.com is but one of the media organizations to have been victimized by these loose cannons. ABS-CBN News vehemently denounces these acts of tampering and fabricating with, and distorting of news headlines and articles of legitimate media organizations, for no meaningful purpose other than to spread disinformation to the public via social media, and besmirch the reputation of innocent personalities.

One malicious handiwork of these trolls is the tampering of the story with the original headline ‘No contempt of court in PNoy speeches: Palace’ by ABS-CBN reporter Jorge Cariño and published last July 24.

In the article, Malacañang communications officials defended the President against calls that he be cited for contempt whenever he speaks against the Supreme Court for declaring certain acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional. However, the article’s title was changed into a lewd and lascivious headline involving the president’s private parts.

Another tampered headline shared on Facebook was ‘PNoy’s latest SONA is his best bullshit story ever: Locsin’. The original article published by ABS-CBNnews.com last July 29 was entitled ‘PNoy’s latest SONA is his best yet: Locsin’. In it, columnist, ex-congressman and former presidential speech writer Teddy Locsin Jr. lauded President Aquino for his calm, non-combative and sincere demeanor while delivering the SONA. Locsin, however, said the president undermined his own arguments in support of the DAP when he said he would seek a supplemental budget from Congress.

And most recently, another juicy but entirely false headline spread: ‘Lee Min Ho admits being bisexual’. Netizens are in for a surprise if they click on the link because it leads to an article published by ABS-CBNnews.com entitled ‘Lee Min Ho arrives in Manila for concert’ published July 5, 2013. The old and dusty article has been one of the most-read articles on ABS-CBNnews.com for several days now, according to Google Analytics, no thanks to the bait of a tampered Facebook link.

On a positive note, some of the more astute and discerning consumers of news are the ones on digital. On the Facebook comments thread of the tampered Lee Min Ho article, one netizen called out the troll for editing the headline, and encouraged others to be responsible and not to sow disinformation online.

TAMPERING VIA FACEBOOK

As early as several years ago, tech experts in the United States called attention to a feature on Facebook which allow ‘sharers’ to edit, modify or alter the title and description of news articles to be shared. Another feature is to attribute the shared article to a different entity or media organization.

Some netizens reasoned out that such a feature is useful because it allows users to make corrections when there are errors in the titles and descriptions of links to be shared. It also allows users to make titles and descriptions more catchy and gripping, the better to hook your Facebook friends when you share a link on your timeline.

However, such a feature is dangerous in the hands of irresponsible individuals who find twisted pleasure in distorting facts and spreading lies on social media.

Journalists have nothing against sharing story links on Facebook. Media organizations all over the world acknowledge that Facebook is the single biggest driver of web traffic. ABS-CBNnews.com was even ranked 7th biggest Facebook publisher in the world by Newswhip.com, ahead of CNN.com and NYTimes.com. However, the power of social media must be harnessed in a positive and constructive way.

FIGHTING THE TROLLS

So how does one deal with dubious-looking headlines or articles supposedly attributed to media entities like ABS-CBNnews.com?

Read before you share. Resist the tendency to immediately share a juicy headline because you might be sharing a tampered one. Click the link first and read the article to see if it is legitimate (Is there attribution to sources? Are the facts like names, dates, places detailed clearly?)

Do a Google search. If you are still unsure after the reading the article, if the piece sounds too crazy or outrageous, do a Google search on the topic. If the article is authentic, there is a big chance that other legitimate media organizations will carry a version of that story.

If it’s fake, don’t share. If you see an article of ABS-CBNnews.com that’s been tampered with, call our attention ([email protected], www.facebook.com/abscbnNEWS, www.twitter.com/abscbnNEWS ) and we will take it from there.