Fake news on GMA 7’s “poop” by China vessels traced to dilawans

I’ve said it time and again, and I’ll say it again.

In this day and age, fake news are easy to track down and expose.

That already happened with the dishonesty shown by Simularity, Inc. and GMA 7 in using a photograph of a dredging vessel causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia way back in October 2014 and make it seem like an actual image of a Chinese vessel spewing human waste into the West Philippine Sea.

Now, the venerated columnist Bobi Tiglao has done it again: he exposed Simularity as a propaganda front of the dilawans to spread lies against China. And Tiglao raises the question about whether or not the U.S. State Department, or the CIA, could have put up the $1 million that the brother of a former Aquino government cabinet member infused into what was moribund company on July 17, 2018. That’s just three years ago.

Simularity washed its hands from any culpability in using that damning photograph from “The Daily Mail”. It blamed GMA 7 for failure to double-check its attribution in fine print that the ship was unknown with its source indicated underneath. Was GMA alone in this apparent act of spreading fake news?

Hell, no.

There was malice in Simularity’s use of that photograph. The intent to raise a furor by showing a picture of a ship with murky water in its wake was palpable. There was nothing in the caption that would warn the reader that the vessel wasn’t Chinese, and that it wasn’t in the act of dumping human waste as an accompanying illustration to the article. And that certainly accomplished its purpose: it raised hell among Senators who fell for the fake news.

It’s sad because GMA 7 merely removed the offending picture without offering an apology. Simularity said it had asked “the irresponsible news organization” to publish a retraction. GMA 7 pretended as if nothing happened. That is cowardice.

That embarassing episode is now aggravated by what Tiglao has unearthed.

In his column appearing in The Manila Times today, Tiglao discovered that Simularity was a mediocre technology company founded in Delaware, U.S.A. in 2011. Its business was providing clients with data on “changes on the earth surface” using images downloaded from a satellite of the European Space Agency.

But as the website of ESA would show, its powerful satellites are used to monitor “gradual changes” in the earth’s surface such as the gradual clearing of rainforests, the annual rise in global sea level, and an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires.

With this in mind, the question begs to be asked: how can Simularity monitor the build-up of human waste in the open sea when any discharge is carried away by strong currents? It’s not as if the “poop” discharge is weighed down by an anchor so that it stays in place for generations to come, such that its accumulation can be detected from space.

Liz Derr is guilty of exagerrating her report when she said there are now two man-made things visible from space — the Great Wall of China and the “poop” concentrations in the Spratlys. “When ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” she said.

That is plain stupidity. Even an elementary school pupil understands that in open sea, nothing remains stationary. Certainly, human waste piling up in that part of the world is impossible. It’s not an earth-surface latrine where the poop stays in the dug-out for a long period of time. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

But there’s more to it.

Tiglao found out that Peter Abaya, brother of former DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya, invested $1 million in the company on July 17, 2018 through his company, Shatter Tech Venture Holdings.

What was it about Simularity that attracted Abaya’s brother to pour a cool million dollars in that company? And why did Simularity quickly change its packaging to become a technology-company keeping a tight watch over what was happening in the West Philippine Sea? And how did Simularity’s so-called “poop report” draw the attention of Philippine media to warrant an on-line interview with Derr?

If you ask me, Simularity was set-up as a propaganda vehicle for the oligarchs who have set their eyes on the gas and oil underneath the West Philippine Sea. It’s not hard to see the connection.

GMA’s fake news: cowardice of a network

In this age of the Internet, and the powerful artificial intelligence of Google Search, research work has become much too easy that reporting errors of fact, and spreading disinformation, becomes a mortal sin for media organizations and the people working in them.

Hence, it took less than half a day after GMA News published the image of a ship with a trail of murk in its wake — purportedly a Chinese vessel in the Spratly Islands — to be exposed as a fraud, or fake news. GMA News accomplished its evil design: to create a furor over a picture of a ship supposedly spilling tons of human waste in the Philippine exclusive economic zone. That picture accompanied a report on the claim of a U.S.-based company that there has been a rise of human waste dumping by Chinese vessels anchored near the Union Banks, or Pagkakaisa Reefs.

The use of a photograph to illustrate a news report must be accurate, meaning it must either be an actual image showing what is described in the story, or a file picture of a similar event or act. If there is no actual picture, there is usually a clear label “FILE PICTURE” on the face or caption to tell the reader or viewer that it is not a depiction of what the story is about.

Simularity, Inc. did use that picture to accompany its story.

There is nothing in the website report, however, that would tell its reader that the picture was lifted from an Australian newspaper on its story about illegal dredging in the Great Barrier Reefs in October 2014. What was just placed below the story was that the picture’s source is unknown.

Hence, GMA News jumped to its own conclusion that it was an actual photograph of a Chinese vessel dumping human waste and used it to accompany its story. It did not take the editorial caution of verifying first from the source, Simularity. That’s what journalists are taught to do: check and double check. Better to be a little late in putting out the story than commit a factual blunder.

Understandably, the picture, more than the story, provoked an angry response. That was precisely what GMA News had intended to do in the first place: Shock its viewers and readers (on social media).

The line of Senators who are always hungry for media mileage quickly sent out angry statements, demanding government action.

But the furor was about nothing. To quote Shakespeare, “much ado about nothing.”

First, the ship shown in the picture wasn’t a Chinese vessel caught in the act of dumping human waste into the sea within the EEZ. It came from a series of photographs published in The Daily Mail of Australia way back in October 2014. And the murky wake shown in the picture wasn’t human waste; it was spillage from the dredging activities. In this respect, Simularity should take primary blame for failing to state that fact. GMA News is guilty for not double checking.

Simularity was quick to issue a clarification about the wrong use of the picture. It blamed GMA for its failure to check closely on its post. It described GMA as an “irresponsible news organization” and asked it to issue a retraction.

Second, what’s the fuss about human waste being dumped into the sea?

Simularity claims that there has been an increase in algal growth in the reefs OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS because of what it describes as over-abundance of effluent coming from the human waste dumping. This is an important fact that was easily overlooked. And the ugly monkeys of the Liberal Party were quick to scold the Duterte government for failure to stop the Chinese from turning our EEZ into a public toilet.

As Simularity itself stated in its clarification, human waste dumping by sea vessels is COMMON PRACTICE. So why did it attribute the so-called over-abundance of effluent to the anchorage of more than 200 Chinese vessels in the area? It is a blatant act of deception to infuriate Filipinos on the issue of Chinese intrusion into our EEZ. I won’t be surprsied if Simularity is CIA. And part of its mission is instigate Filipinos to look at the Duterte government in bad light.

If these S.O.B.s are indeed concerned about effluent, why didn’t it issue an alarm about the thick algal growth in Boracay? Or to get closer, in the Manila Bay? Can we even compare the human waste production of 200-plus vessels to the output of millions of Filipino families living on the banks of the Pasig and other rivers in Metro Manila? All the poop from the these households are flushed into the Manila Bay, just in case Simularity didn’t know it.

Anyway, GMA surreptitiously removed that offensive picture and pretended as if nothing happened. It didn’t even demonstrate strong journalistic ethics to publish a retraction as suggested by Simularity. Moral cowardice in the media profession is what I call it.