“Think Before You Click” Online Campaign Backfires

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Here’s my unedited column (No Sugar, Just Spice) on Christopher Lao and GMA News on Good Morning Philippines, published today.

Anyone who gets news online has probably seen or heard of the viral video sensation that is Christopher Lao. Last week amidst typhoon Lando, GMA aired a video of Lao’s Nissan Exalta stopping and literally floating along a flooded street in Quezon City. In a matter of hours, Lao became an object of ridicule on Twitter and Facebook and a sadly, a victim of online bullying.

A Facebook fanpage attacking Lao garnered almost 50,000 fans in one day. More fanpages are being made about the “guy who thought he was driving a boat”, either poking Lao’s arrogance or the debut of his sensitive male parts on national TV. While Twitter users like @sophieest were also unforgiving calling the UP Law student bar candidate “bobo” and @DJEuric jokingly calling Lao the “Idiot of the Year.” Even his achievements as a former University of the Philippines Student Council member and a Summa Cum Laude in Philosophy were also used against him. Christopher Lao is an easy target – all you need is a Twitter or Facebook account and you can join in the bandwagon of name calling and cyber bullying.

Less than a month ago, GMA launched its “Think Before You Click” campaign, acknowledging that the power of social media is a great responsibility. With a click away, you can join the conversation or make the conversation by sharing information with your community. It’s easy to use and definitely, easy to abuse. “Think about the repercussions of what you are about to post, will it hurt others, could it potentially hurt me, or those who I care about the most? It’s hard to take back what you’ve posted online, and everything has an effect.” – a very insightful statement published on the “Think Before You Click” promotional text on GMA’s website.

Who would have thought that GMA’s online media campaign would have been totally negated with one video that’s supposedly reporting on the conditions of the metro’s streets while a nasty typhoon threatens the safe levels of the Marikina River and Ipo Dam? GMA reporter Jun Veneracion may have pushed Lao into being defensive, asking him why he did not “realize” that the water was too deep for cars to pass through. Yes, the video warned motorists to steer clear of that area in Quezon City alright, but it also zeroed in on Lao’s arrogance and poor decision-making. Highlighting a rich and intelligent person’s seeming stupidity would make a much more interesting story than a law student braving the flood to get to his daughter, would it not?

I don’t know what triggered GMA News to pull down the video from their website, but I’m glad that they acknowledged their bad call in airing it. Howie Severino, editor-in-chief of GMA News Online issued a statement about the matter: “Mr. Lao was already victimized by the flood and a lack of warnings. He shouldn’t be victimized again. Many of us could have been in his situation. We are urging the public to stop the insults, as this has become a case of cyber bullying. We regret that our video, which was meant to provide a lesson for all motorists, was used in any way to make fun of another person.”

Former UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen defended Lao in a Facebook post saying, “You may be amused by the mistakes or misfortunes of others. But this does not entitle you to degrade their entire character or make conclusions about their whole person.”

The “Think Before You Click” campaign promotes responsible use of social media, with the clever slogan reiterating that with just one click, we have as much power to tear down as we do to build up. How many clicks would it take to build something back up?

There are two lessons I’ve learned from this hulabaloo. Firstly, social media is just a tool to amplify a story and it will certainly magnify whatever is being communicated, no matter what the intention. Secondly, this shows classic human behavior – to prey on the weak. At the end of the day, people chose Lao as a target instead of a big corporation as GMA for putting a private citizen in bad light or even the MMDA who failed to put warning signs for the safety of commuters.

——

My college friend, Rowena Ricalde, who knows Christopher Lao from the UP College of Law wrote:

“Chris is my blockmate. When I saw this video, like most of us, I laughed. But, having all the free time in the world to make fan pages and post hate messages and tweets is another.

Chris does not deserve this. At all. When my brother asked me if he was an arrogant guy (as he was portrayed in the news bit), I told him not at all – and that is the most ironic thing about this. It was edited in such a way that it made Chris look like a douche. The news bit did not serve any purpose but to humiliate Chris. And this, I say, is irresponsible journalism.

In our block, he is our savior from terror professors. Everybody knows he studies all the material for our class. He is not the type of guy who raises his hand in class and interjects non-sense questions (law students, you know the type I’m talking about). Chris does not even raise his hand in class. He only recites if the professor calls his name. He is the type of guy who the professor calls if nobody can answer the question. He is the type of guy who can stand in recitation for four-hour lectures.

The news bit did not even mention why he has to go brave the floods. Chris is currently studying for the bar exams. To all law students and lawyers, you know the intense pressure that goes in this process. Moreover, Chris is a father. He was on his way to his daughter since his wife was stranded in the office.

Chris hails from Mindanao hence his unfamiliarity with the streets of Metro Manila. And he just learned how to drive when he was in law school.

Having said that, Chris even issued an apology for his tirade caught on video and for blaming everybody but himself in the mishap (welcome to the law profession, Chris, where our motto is cover your own ass).

I know ignoring the issue would do more good for Chris. I guess, this would be the last time I will mention this issue.

To Chris, after the bar exams – and we are all sure you’re going to ace that – tell us if you need help. Let’s draft laws to prevent this from ever happening again. Or let’s sue who we can sue (let’s check the prescription for libel on this one).”

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About Faith Salazar

Crazy city girl from Manila. Does social media and digital for a living. Does social media and digital for fun.

08. August 2011 by Faith Salazar
Categories: Manila News | Tags: , , , , , | 18 comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/tess.termulo Tess Termulo

    Another funny thing: I just noticed that some of those who first shared this video online (via facebook or twitter) and laughed at this guy’s mistake are now the ones who’re pointing fingers and accusing others of cyber bullying. I don’t know if it’s just a case of seeking redemption or trying to “ride the tide”.  

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Hah. They follow “trends” literally! Ano ba ‘yan? Mga walang sariling opinyon?

  • http://www.glennong.com Glenn Ong

    Nice article, Faith! 

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Thanks, Glenn! :)

  • http://www.pinoysocialmedia.com Jay

    well written and points well made.   If you want additional social media stats on the incident, check out http://www.pinoysocialmedia.com/2011/08/christopher-lao-trends-on-twitter-who.html .

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Thanks, Jay! Great compilation, can definitely use it for research.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_22ENOCGSPQCB5UYQTABJENVWZE sky

    When I saw this video I had the same reaction when i saw the puppy hanged on the clothesline over a month ago. My reaction was, “so what?” 

    i can’t understand my kababayans. they seem to be mindful of trivial things. lahat ng videos pinapatulan. lahat ng tsismis pinaniniwalaan. is this a curse from heaven? have we made ourselves so stupid that heaven is punishing us for not using our brains and for having big mouths?

    i was young before, but i never reacted this way. this is too much. not only is this a proof of our deteriorating educational system but also a sign that people these days, young and adults, are suffering from incurable insecurities given the unstable economic and melodramatic social conditions. this is what happens ‘pag maraming unemployed, ‘pag mas maraming naghihirap, ‘pag ang binabarkada ay puro average or low iq (sorry, if i am being blunt), ‘pag mahilig sa mga soap opera, then people become emotional and sensitive. and to cover up their frustrations and insecurities in life they resort to showing off their crooked views at makipag-away sa mga nonsense commentators. ang daming nasasayang na oras instead of using their time to become productive citizens.

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      People seem to think that they are above the social order just because they are anonymous or they feel that they cannot be sued or that they cannot be held liable for what they say online. It’s a sad part of online culture that we have to change as the lines between real and virtual are starting to blur. 

      Thank you for saying what I actually wanted to say. Hahahaha! Chos!

  • Bps

    I think you should sue GMA network for lousy reporting. Where did their professionalism went? Deteriorating media service, tinamad ba silang magedit?

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      LOL I’m starting to feel that GMA aired a bad joke

  • http://www.theaveragejane00900.blogspot.com The Average Jane

    I totally agree with your article.  Who’s to say we would have reacted differently when placed in a similar situation.  SSome people just have too much time on their hands.  Tsk..tsk..tsk..

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Hello Jane, thank you for leaving a comment. Yes, stress can put people in situations where they are tested for who they are. Reactions to criticism is also a test where people can show who they can be. :)

  • Sweetnnazty

    I agree with everything you wrote except placing blame on a big corporation such as GMA. “At the end of the day, people chose Lao as a target instead of a big
    corporation as GMA for putting a private citizen in bad light” Do you really have to point fingers at somebody?? It was plain news that we see everyday. Across all TV stations. All news programs more often than not tend to sensationalize to gather viewers. When I saw this video on TV and online, it never occurred to me that they were intentionally or deliberately putting a private citizen on a bad light. It is unfortunate that people resorted to cyber bullying and I am glad to say I had no participation in kicking a man while he’s down but let us not forget that part of the masses’ violent reaction sprung from the guy’s pointing fingers to everyone but himself. It was his perhaps choice of words in the heat of the moment that he blamed everything else for his unfortunate experience. Living in Rizal, we know to be very careful when driving in flooded areas. You drive around Manila and other places that has flood and you would barely see signs anywhere. This is not a good thing but accept the fact that you are in a third world country and the most warning you can get is when you hear of typhoons and flood to damn look after yourself. You are better off assuming that if no one is passing through the water must be deep. I feel for Mr. Lao’s disappointment that no one warned him but we all have a choice that makes us responsible for our own actions. He could have asked bystanders and other motorists who are NOT crossing the flood. It was a mistake. There is no one to blame.

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Hmm I don’t see airing someone’s stupidity as news – maybe for public figures such as politicians and celebrities. But for private citizens, I don’t see how I can stomach this kind of stupidity on free TV. But, thank you for leaving a comment. We can agree to disagree. :) Thanks!

  • Ficklecattle

    Hey Fickle Cattle here. I love your blog! :-) And it was nice meeting you last Tuesday. :-)

    Regarding the Christopher Lao issue, I don’t know the guy, but I thought the video was funny, so I laughed. However, the cyber bullying was all too much, and I think generally undeserved.

    http://ficklecattle.blogspot.com/

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Hey! It was so nice to FINALLY meet you last Tuesday. Ang pogi mo pala! Teehee! Thank you, I love your blog more. Chos. 

      Also, people can’t seem to control themselves on their social networks. :|

  • http://twitter.com/dRealJaneGarci Jane Garci

    I agree very well written.. people are just bullies and GMA was really irresponsible..jun veneracion was bad reporter is that guy even licensed in KBP im sure this was a violation of KBP rules. and even on twitter , GMA never apologized when we asked them why they aired the interview when it was not pertinent to the news. They just tweeted everyone back the same thing. blablabla.. GMA owes lao an apology.. and also something teeenssy bitsy typo.. “Highlighting a rich and intelligent person’s seeming stupidity would make a much more interesting story than a law student braving the flood to get to her daughter, would it not?” change it to “his”. :)

    • http://www.tanggera.com Faith Salazar

      Oops, thanks! Thank you also for leaving a comment. :) I didn’t know GMA never actually apologized. :(

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