How many social media users in Singapore believe in fake news?

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.


Though the majority of social media users in Singapore are confident they can distinguish fake news from real ones, nearly 2 out of every 10 users have experienced being misinformed by fake news.

This is based on a survey conducted in July involving 1,045 social media users in Singapore. The survey is part of a research project on social media literacy at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The survey asked respondents to rate how often they have “believed information from social media that turned out to be false.”

Some 13% said this happened to them “often,” while about 6% reported experiencing this “very often.” Some 45% said this happened to them “sometimes.” About 27.4% reported experiencing this “rarely,” while about 9.1% said “never.”



NTU Survey


However, these responses only refer to instances when the users were able to figure out that what they believed in was actually fake news.

It does not account for instances when the users never figured out they were misinformed—which means these results only show a fraction of the actual problem.

While most examples of fake news we have examined so far in Singapore refer to consumer affairs, such as the viral post about plastic rice supposedly being sold at a supermarket chain, fake news has become a source of concern for many Singaporeans.

A simple search for the term “fake news” on Google Trends, which provides a measure of how often a search term is searched relative to other search terms, shows that Singapore ranks second among countries in the world when it comes to the degree of interest in fake news, just after the United States and right above the Philippines.


Google Trends

Source: Google Trends


However, most social media users in Singapore are confident they can tell which one is fake and which one is real: The survey also found that 58.5% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement: “I can tell whether an information on social media is true or false.”

Only 7.9% percent disagreed with the statement, with the rest indicating a neutral stance.

Singapore has among the highest social media penetration rates around the world, enabled by a reliable digital infrastructure network.

WhatsApp is the most used social media application, with 92.9% of the respondents saying they use it often or very often, followed by YouTube (80.3%) and Facebook (79.2%).

It is possible that as news consumption increasingly takes place on social media—platforms that are designed primarily to maintain or create social ties—information becomes a social currency to facilitate the maintenance or building of social relationships.

Thus, informing others might become secondary to entertaining or humouring others, so that some social media users share information without verifying.

Part of the problem, too, is the inaction among many users who are able to spot fake news.

In an earlier survey involving 2,500 respondents, also conducted by NTU, a group of researchers found that about 73% would just ignore fake news they see on social media. Only 12.2% would report the post to get it removed.


Edson C. Tandoc Jr. is an assistant professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at NTU Singapore. His research focuses on online news production and consumption. He has started a project, funded by the Ministry of Education, to look at social media literacy in Singapore. Part of the project looks at how social media users navigate through the information they come across on social media.


Filipino journalists trusted NGOs more than Noynoy Aquino


Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III enjoyed consistently high trust ratings during his term based on national surveys in the Philippines, and this appears to be true even among journalists in the country.

A national survey of Filipino journalists conducted during Aquino’s final year in office showed an average trust rating of 2.66 out of 5, which translates to about 53%.

Of the 349 journalists surveyed, 1.5% reported having a “complete trust” in the former president, 12.6% reported having a “great deal of trust,” while 49.7% reported having “some trust.”

Some 36.2% reported having “little” to “no trust at all.”

Aquino’s trust rating among journalists is higher than that of either the House of Representatives (48%) or the Senate (51%).


The survey is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.


The journalists who joined the survey also reported similar levels of trust for the police (51%) and the military (53%).

In contrast, journalists seem to trust non-governmental organizations (61%), the judiciary (59%), and religious leaders (58%) quite well.

Of all the different institutions included in the survey, the journalists trusted the news media (68%) the most.

Skepticism is considered to be important in journalism practice, as journalists need to constantly question authorities to report accurately and truthfully.

Thus, understanding journalists’ level of trust in the institutions they routinely cover is also important, because such perceptions can affect their reporting.

The survey, conducted between May and December last year, is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.

The respondents from the Philippines included journalists from local, regional, and national news organizations. Some 51% were female and 49% were male.

The sample also included journalists across different positions, from reporters to editors-in-chief. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 5.

The author is a journalism researcher and professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research focuses on the impact of new technologies on journalistic practice. He is also a former journalist from the Philippines.






Filipino journalists face low pay, violence, restricted info access


JOURNALIST AT WORK. A photo I took while covering the special elections in Lanao del Sur in May 2007. The elections there had to be postponed because of violence.

Low pay, media killings and restrictions to information access are the three most important problems facing journalists in the Philippines, results of a national survey of journalists showed.

A survey of 349 journalists in the Philippines, conducted between May and December last year, found that 38.2% identified low pay and poor working conditions as the most important problem journalists in the Philippines have to endure.

About 21% identified violence against journalists as the most important problem, while 9.5% referred to problems with information access, primarily citing the lack of a freedom of information (FOI) law in the country as well as different forms of government pressure.

The survey is part of the Worlds of Journalism Survey, a global project involving journalism researchers from more than 70 countries.

In the Philippines, journalists were asked to identify what they considered as the most important problem confronting journalists in the country.

The respondents were allowed to write their answers using their own words. The responses were then categorized and analyzed by the researcher.

The respondents also identified the following problems: decreasing media credibility (8.5%), increasing pressure from audiences and new technologies (7.5%), corruption among journalists (6.5%), increasing pressure from owners (5.2%), and sensationalism in reporting (3.6%).

The respondents include journalists from local, regional, and national news organizations.

Some 51% were female and 49% were male. The sample also includes journalists across different positions, from reporters to editors-in-chief.


The author is a journalism researcher and professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research focuses on the impact of new technologies on journalistic practice. He is also a former journalist from the Philippines. Email him at edson[at]

#PiliPinas2016: The good, the bad, and the reality

Fake survey

This year’s election has brought out the best and the worst in many of us as we publicly engaged one another on social media, and yet we need to be mindful that what see online is rarely accurate and complete.

I have done some research on social media use, but from just observing my own social media accounts and reading posts of my own circle of friends in the last several weeks, I saw some patterns that support and question what we know about social media so far.

Let me start with what’s good.

I think the level of engagement we have witnessed this election is unparalleled, and part of that is because social media provided a public platform for people to voice out their thoughts and opinions without passing through the gates of traditional media.

Far from fears of social media functioning as echo-chambers—or when individuals get exposed only to information consistent with their views—I saw how friends supporting different candidates engaged with one another.

Supporters aggressively sought out and confronted opinion inconsistent with theirs. Such mediated confrontation, I think, further heightened public interest in this election.

Increased interest translated into mobilization, with supporters using social media to organize their ranks. I had friends who posted on Facebook calls for campaign donations and arrangements to distribute campaign materials.

I don’t remember seeing this level of participation, at least on social media, in the previous elections.

But we also witnessed widespread problematic social media behavior.

Many supporters abandoned civility as they expressed support for a candidate who, ironically, they claimed to represent discipline.

There was a lot of name-calling, with people not just arguing but even maligning others who disagreed with them. Supporters turned into cyber-bullies, viciously threatening supporters of other candidates.

I also have very close friends who engaged in misinformation, one of them posting bogus survey results, and I was appalled how such fabricated information went viral in a matter of hours, that a survey company had to issue a statement to deny it.

Many also became very hostile with traditional media organizations, threatening reporters not just online but also when they see them in person.

Studies have long established what researchers called the hostile media effect.

Simply, it refers to the phenomenon of individuals with a strong opinion on a particular issue perceiving the media to be biased against their opinion, even if confronted by a neutral story.

An important factor explaining this effect is the perceived reach of the source.

It seems that part of the aggressiveness of many supporters in criticizing and demonizing traditional and social media sources they perceive to be biased against their own views is the fear and recognition that these sources have wide reach.

But what’s interesting is how some supporters did not just question the media they perceived as biased, but they also put up alternative social media pages, blogs, and websites that spread fabricated information and were, ironically, explicitly biased.

However, while we now live in an increasingly digitized world, we have to realize that most of what we see on social media—even what we get from opinion surveys—remains incomplete. We have witnessed this in the recent national elections in the United Kingdom and Singapore.

In the UK, the majority win of the Conservatives surprised polling companies which had predicted a much different result.

In Singapore, supporters of opposition parties dominated social media, but election results saw the administration party increasing its majority last year.

But are we really ourselves on social media?

While it is surprising to see some social media users spew out threats and nasty messages without hiding behind anonymity—vicious comments also come from users using their real names—many of them quickly step back when counter-attacked.

It’s great to see social media being maximized as a platform for free exchange of ideas during this election, but much of what we have witnessed also highlights the need for social media literacy.

This election is not only about deciding what our country will become, but it should also be about reflecting on what we have become as a people.

In defense of today’s newspapers

News about the execution came too late for many newspapers in the Philippines. (Image from The Guardian;  Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

News about the execution came too late for many newspapers in the Philippines. (Image from The Guardian; Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

Filpinos rejoiced after Mary Jane Veloso was spared from execution in Indonesia, and then laughed at national newspapers which got their headlines wrong.

Veloso, sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, was scheduled to be executed by firing squad early morning Wednesday.

Indonesia proceeded to execute eight death row prisoners but spared Veloso at the last minute. Veloso maintained she did not know about the heroin found in her suitcase.

Filipinos around the world signed online petitions, joined street protests, and participated in night vigils. They woke up to learn about the positive development as well as to read morning papers with wrong headlines.

Facebook teemed with posts ridiculing newspapers’ frontpages. Inquirer’s banner headline read: “Death came before dawn.” Manila Bulletin had: “No delay in execution.” Abante Tonite said: “Paalam Mary Jane (Goodbye Mary Jane).”

Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin managed to update their headlines in their latest editions.

Many social media users were harsh in their criticisms, describing reporters as stupid or sleeping on their jobs.

Inquirer's statement released via Twitter by @Team_Inquirer

Inquirer’s statement released via Twitter by @Team_Inquirer

This post is not to defend the erroneous newspaper headlines, not even that of the Inquirer, where I worked as reporter for six years (although I know for a fact that the Inquirer reporter assigned to monitor the Department of Foreign Affairs briefing was literally not sleeping—she was doing her job as late as 3am).

But this is a good time, I think, for some reflection on what is happening to journalism. This incident, it seems, is about three issues:

  1. This shows the changing expectations of news consumers. Having been socialized into real-time reporting they find online, news consumers appear to expect the same speed from their newspapers. This is, of course, an unreasonable expectation, given the nature of the newspaper medium.

Newspaper issues have to be ready between 9pm and 10pm to allow sufficient time for printing and delivery, which are not quick processes. Newspapers have to reach newsstands early the following morning, as very few buyers wait for a specific paper: Being late means losing out to competition (of course, the case is different when it comes to the subscription market).

From what I know, updates in the past have been made successfully until about 1am, but only for editions distributed within Metro Manila, where the time between printing and distribution is much shorter. But most readers don’t realize this. They also don’t realize that reporters, whose bylines appear with stories, do not write their own headlines. This is why we need media literacy.

  1. Given the changing expectations of news consumers, newspapers should reassess their roles. The nature of the medium limits its capability when it comes to breaking news. Newspapers cannot, and perhaps should no longer, strive to break news all the time. We have online platforms for that. Freed from this expectation, newspapers can channel their strengths into other forms of journalism, where they can remain strong.
  1. Finally, against this backdrop of changing expectations and changing roles, newspapers should also remain true to the traditional standards that guide journalism, at whatever platform. While it is true that newspapers face time constraints, it does not give them an excuse to predict spot news. It does not free them from reporting events as they are. When something has not happened, and there is no certainty as to what would happen next, that’s what should be in the story. And by story, I also mean the headline.

Today’s social media attack on newspapers, I think, is undeserved and uninformed.

But it informs us about how readers’ expectations are changing.

Such information, if used properly, can hopefully also spare newspapers from their projected demise.

Let us not be afraid to dream

Twelve years ago today, I gave this cute speech at my college graduation. Wait. What? Twelve years ago?!! #ThrowbackMonday

With my parents.

There was a cute little boy who, at night before going to bed, would pray to God that when he grows up, perhaps he could become Ultraman Ace, or maybe a member of the Power Rangers, or perhaps God could simply give him some superpowers so he could fly. Often, that little kid would stare at the sun, close his eyes, open them, and would try to catch the patches of colored lights that he would see, because his grandmother told him once that if he could snatch those lights and wrap them in a handkerchief, he would get some superpowers. The lights would give him magic.

Years passed and the kid grew up and the prayer changed a little. The little kid would ask the Lord to make him a brilliant lawyer someday and become the country’s president. Or perhaps God could turn him into a newscaster or an actor, so he could make great films and win some Oscars. And so the kid kept on growing; and the prayer kept on changing. Until finally, the things being asked by the little kid became even bolder, but more realistic. Instead of toys, he would ask the Lord to give him good grades. Instead of praying that Ginebra win the game, the kid started to pray that he win in the essay-writing contest he had joined. Instead of becoming a Power Ranger, he would ask the Lord to help him become a better person. Instead of an Oscar trophy, he would ask for guidance so he could make his family and loved ones a little proud.

Who would have thought that the little kid would grow up to be the College of Mass Communication’s first Summa cum Laude?

Who would have thought that the probinsyano from a small school in the remote town of Tayug, Pangasinan, who entered college as a computer illiterate and felt like a fish out of water to see his blockmates in great clothes, most of whom came from exclusive schools, speaking in English during the first class meetings; that that promdi who submitted his Comm 1 papers typewritten while the rest of his classmates had theirs computer-printed with fancy fonts, would graduate as his college’s valedictorian?

Many people were surprised. In the first place, I don’t have the looks of a supposedly intelligent student. I am seldom serious. I am talkative and noisy. I am a little crazy. I rarely go to the library. In fact, most of my library cards are still unused. I cram a lot and I don’t wear thick eyeglasses.

The great thing is, what mattered was not so much what people thought, but what people did.

So what did I do? I enjoyed every minute of learning. A lot of times it got really hard for me, but now all I can remember is the fulfillment and happiness I got each time I survived. Contrary to what most of you think, library and books were never my best friends. I want to be a journalist, not a human encyclopedia. But I have a dream. I am just an ordinary person with an extraordinary dream. And every school work that came my way was never an obstacle, but a step closer.

The great thing in this College, especially in Journalism, is that being intelligent is not measured by the number of words one can memorize per minute. Intelligence meant ingenuity, sensitivity, and determination. In this college, we did not study numbers or atoms. We studied people, our problems, reality, and how to make people see what they refuse to or cannot notice.

We did not just study life; we lived it. We captured reality in our articles and in our videos. And it is through living that we learn—that we become better people. Lives can be saved, changed, and even destroyed by the power of the media. This power is what we sought to understand and acquire.

Now, we have that power to touch the lives of many people. And the training we had in this College has prepared us to use that power with great responsibility. The world is rapidly changing, and it is the media that help people catch up. In this country, journalism, through its various channels—print, online, television, and even text messaging—has guided the decisions of our people by providing them with the things they need to know. Soon, we will be a part of that noble profession.

College life was easy—easy to describe: It was very hard, very difficult, very challenging. This is the University of the Philippines. Getting into UP was never easy. Getting out of it, I mean by finishing one’s course successfully, is even harder. That we are all here today is indeed one reason to celebrate, because we all have survived college life in the country’s best university, even during those uncertain times.

Remember the movies and telenovela episodes we missed because we had to review for an exam? The parties we did not attend because we had to prepare some reports? The thick STS readings? The sleepless nights and our zombie looks because of our theses? The terror teachers? The boring classes? The extremely difficult, mind-boggling, I-wanna-drop-this-course types of exams? The insufficient deadlines? The sums of money we spent to watch the required plays and to photocopy the needed readings that could have provided us with three meals a day instead of one banana cue?

College life was tough. But it was also rewarding. Beating a deadline was a sweet success. Every exam passed was a gold medal. Every nod by our professors, or a simple pat on the back, was a jackpot. Every conversation we had with our friends made us wiser. And we were able to meet a lot of wonderful people, most of whom became our great friends, who taught us, in one way or another, a lot of amazing things that no book can ever teach.

Our batch saw and shaped a lot of important events. We marched from UP to EDSA and ousted a president. We saw terrorism grip the whole world with fear, but we never allowed that fear to consume us, and instead it made us more vigilant. We saw and understood how ugly war is—that we fought and are still fighting for peace.

These events have, in turn, shaped us to become better individuals. We learned how to become more critical and vigilant. We learned to assert our rights and fight for the right of others. We learned to fight for our principles and to stand up for our beliefs. We learned to survive amid a dwindling economy, but at the same time we learned to assert our right for a government working for national interest. We learned not only how to speak, but how to speak for the proper reasons, and be heard. We learned that, as students of the country’s premier university, we have a responsibility to our country and even to ourselves.

Now we see the fruit of those four long years of hard work and sacrifice. But learning is an endless process. Outside the university there awaits another exam in the bigger classroom of society, where the question of passing and failing becomes more important. Outside the university, there awaits a new curriculum where the courses cannot be dropped if they get too hard, nor can be repeated after a grade of 5; where excellence is not determined by medals but by happiness and fulfillment, not only our own, but also those of the people around us.

It is indeed a great responsibility ahead of us. Yet these are uncertain times. Life after college is an ocean full of doubts. Let us not be afraid to dream. And let us not be afraid to achieve them.

One of the greatest things I learned in college is that nobody is a nobody. That I was privileged to deliver this speech does not mean I am in any way better. Academics is just one simple category; and life is complex. Each one of us has his own greatness. Everybody can be a somebody.

My father always teases me that he and Mama are still better than I am because they have a son who is a Summa cum Laude. But I still say I am better, because I have the best parents in the world.

And so the cute little kid would keep on dreaming. Simple dreams, when put together, allow great things to happen. Surely, the little kid never caught any of those patches of light that he saw. But still those lights gave him magic—the power to believe that dreams do come true, because they really do if we make them happen.

Now, all that kid can see are the bright lights beaming from your eyes. The kid won’t snatch them, don’t worry. These lights are your own. And may they bring you magic, because out there a lot of great dreams are waiting to be achieved.

(Graduation Speech, UP College of Mass Communication Commencement Ceremony, April 27, 2003) 

Twelve years later, the little kid’s prayers are still changing, but one thing that has become constant is his prayer for thanksgiving. 

Here’s one fear we don’t have to be afraid of

Spiritual Reading

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of the ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouses and no barns; yet God feeds them. And how much more you are worth than the birds! Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest?” (Luke 12: 22-26)

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.


I am a very anxious person. I worry a lot. I have many fears. I was assigned to give today’s allocutio. This task made me afraid.

Fear is a survival instinct. For us humans, fear serves as “a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response.” It is an emotion that prepares us to react.

What are you afraid of? Think back to the last time you felt fear.

Your heart raced faster as it pumped more blood to your muscles to allow you to run faster. Your body increased the flow of hormones to your brain to allow you to focus on the threat you are facing, and store that in your memory.

This cognitive process allows us to remember dangerous situations from the past and be prepared, if needed. For example, a child remembers the day a dog attacked him. He heard the dog bark, he looked back, and saw a dog approaching, its mouth wide open.

But it is also the same cognitive process that triggers fear when the child hears a dog bark, even if it is a different dog this time, or a dog from a movie, or a ring tone, or a friend mimicking his favorite pet.

So while fear is a survival mechanism in the short run, it can be harmful in the long run.

Living in constant fear, studies found, weakens the immune system, decreases fertility, damages internal organs, and can damage certain parts of the brain. It hinders important brain functions, such as regulating emotions and ethical decision-making.

One thing that I do often, which is closely related to fear, is worry. Being the paranoid person that I am, I worry about almost everything. I worry about my safety. I worry about my work. I worry about what other people think of me. Why is my friend not responding on Skype? Why did my colleague sit at the far end of the table, away from me? Why are my superiors calling me for a meeting?

Worrying is very stressful. And just like fear, it has physical manifestations.

I still clearly remember one time I was on a bus, rushing for a press conference I needed to attend as a newspaper reporter, and as I was worrying about missing the event, the stoplight changed into red. The bus screeched into a full stop as pain stretched from my stomach to my throat. As a reporter, who was constantly worried about everything, I had developed an awful case of gastric reflux.

Worrying is “an emotion tied into the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system,” very much just like fear. But unlike fear, it is “triggered by anticipation of things that may cause emotional or physical stress.”

Fearful of this task to deliver today’s allocutio, I turned to the Bible. What does the Bible say about fear and worrying?

I am a media researcher, and to some extent, what we see in the media contributes to our worries. We see images of war, disasters, accidents, injustice, and corruption.

We fear for our safety, for our lives, for our loved ones. We purchase insurance premiums, sturdy locks and alarm systems, and others even arm themselves.

But this fear, these worries, arises from putting too much faith on people, too much value on things, instead of putting our trust in the Lord.

There is one kind of fear that is quite different, something that is positive, and that is the fear of God.

In an article, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said that fearing God is different from being afraid.

He said: “It is a component of faith: It is born from knowledge of who God is. It is the same sentiment that we feel before some great spectacle of nature. It is feeling small before something that is immense; it is stupor,marvel mixed with admiration.”

It is the absence of this fear, the fear of God, the “beginning of all wisdom,” that allows fears, worries, and anxiety to clog our hearts and preoccupy our minds.

So what did I do to control my fear of my assignment for today?

First, I decided to not waste my energy on worrying, and instead channeled my focus into actually preparing. I read the handbook to understand what the Allocutio is for.

In our spiritual reading, the Lord told his disciples: ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

My assignment today is not to impress you, not to make sure I don’t stutter or mispronounce words. My assignment is beyond that.

Second, I prepared by trusting the Lord, knowing that my fear of Him is bigger than any fear, or worry, or anxiety. I decided to confront my worries and my fear. I stopped making excuses and embraced this task.

In Philippians 4:6-7, it is said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, I messaged some friends on Whatsapp, and their kind words helped extinguish my fear. Proverbs 12:25 says: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

So, the next time we feel afraid, let’s just read Psalm 34:4. For it says: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.


Becker-Schutte, Ann. 2014. Fear vs. worry. Help at the Intersection of Physical & Mental Health,

Buhr, Kristin, and Michel J. Dugas. 2009. The role of fear of anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty in worry: An experimental manipulation. Behaviour Research and Therapy 47 (3):215-223.

Cantalamessa, Raniero. 2008. Pope’s Preacher: ‘Have Fear But Do Not Be Afraid’. Catholic Online,

Towey, Sue. 2013. Impact of Fear and Anxiety. Taking charge of your health and wellbeing,