The analogy cannot be missed in today’s current events. With the advent of social media platforms, most have switched to consuming news from online sites. Their accessibility comes with a price — the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, termed by many as “fake news”. Misinformation are false information that are unintentionally shared in online platforms that do not intend to misled or change political views. On the other hand, disinformation are those that are intentionally done, planned or funded, and are usually related to politics or a propaganda.

The World Health Organization officials said that the outbreak of COVID-19 has been accompanied by massive “infodemic” which are referred to as oversupply of information that could be factual or nonfactual, making it hard for readers to find trustworthy and reliable information about the disease.

Social media has been used by many in propagating wildfire of political propaganda, disinformation and misinformation. False information has been spreading like the virus and are difficult to detect or contain. The digital realm of unverified information and their operators are not disrupted by the lockdown that has been imposed.

While digital media companies have put up some measures in curbing the spread of false information in their respective platforms, there are still overwhelming amount of information that make the public an easy prey. To avoid further unrest, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been constantly reminding the public that purveyors of “fake news” may face possible charges of stiffer penalties for violating the “Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances” under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code”.  In a news report published on April 6, 2020, 32 people across the country were arrested because of allegedly posting fake news about corona virus disease on social media.

According to a study, the existing methods in detecting fake news mainly focus on language processing and machine learning models to analyze the legitimacy of news contents. There are currently not many approaches aimed at testing and validating or refining the detection of fake news.

What can we trust then?

The legitimacy of anything can be measured if there is a way of verifying or validating it. A trusted brand should have a proven track record of credibility and integrity, not only in publishing news contents, but basically in everything. For publications, people can easily identify and determine those news media outlets that have established themselves and have proven their unbiased and credible news or information reporting. But for entities like laboratories or certification bodies, it would be difficult. For this, accreditation comes into the picture.

Accreditation is a seal of trust because it involves independent third party attestation that conformity assessment bodies like testing, medical and calibration laboratories or inspection and certification bodies have demonstrated that they are competent in doing their work. Accreditation is done by Accreditation Bodies (ABs) that are bound to show that they are independent, credible and competent in determining the competence of a laboratory or certification body. ABs are regularly peer reviewed by other accreditation bodies which may come from various economies to ensure that they maintain their performance.

Accreditation generally involves the use of auditing techniques by an assessment team including experts in the organizational aspects of management system and technical activities of a laboratory or certification body. For instance, a testing laboratory team would include one or more experts in a type of measurement and testing being carried out. When a laboratory seeks accreditation, the AB will not only assess its compliance with the general standard and any field-specific supplements, it also looks at the technical requirement of specific standard test methods. In some cases, this also includes regulator-specific requirements.

In summary, people should be discerning in consuming products or services; may it be consumption of news and information; goods for our daily use; or other commodities that claims to be certified or accredited. While staying at home might minimize the spread of the virus; objectivity, critical thinking and vigilance on social media and in real life, might save lives too. So too in choosing an accredited conformity assessment body. It can help determine if your product or service can stay alive in a highly competitive marketplace.

As a parting word, It is our individual duty to equip ourselves with the right information in determining and consuming a trusted brand of reliability and integrity.

Release Date: 17 April 2020

Online sources: University of the Philippines Media and Public Relations Office, Rappler, World Health Organizations (WHO), CNN Philippines, Building trust – The Conformity Assessment Toolbox – ISO,  Parik, S. B., Vikram, P., & Atrey, P. K. (2019). On the Origin, Proliferation and Tone of Fake News. University at Albany, State University of New York. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay