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Philippines: Bloggers Dispel Japan Nuclear Scare Hoax

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

As Japanese authorities are scrambling to contain the on-going nuclear crisis in the quake and tsunami hit Fukushima, governments in its neighboring countries are fighting to control the spread of something equally dangerous – hoax messages that sow unfounded fear and panic in the public about Japan's nuclear problems.

In the Philippines, it all started with a hoax message which circulated via SMS warning the public to stay indoors, swab iodine on their necks and avoid getting caught in the acid rain that was allegedly caused by radioactive material that leaked from Japan's damaged nuclear power plants.

The hoax message soon leaked into social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, bloggers were quick in coming out to prove that the messages were false and expose it as such.

Rungitom dissects the message point-by-point to prove it's a hoax:

Why is it a hoax again? Here are the reasons:

  • The plume from the site of the incident will not pass Philippine territory as of March 14.
  • It does not make sense because the location of the explosion is too far, so it does not affect the local rainfall.
  • The wind pattern in Japan showed that the Philippines are unlikely to be hit by any radioactive fallout from Fukushima.
  • Acid rain is formed when gaseous substances like sulphur and nitrogen mix and react with water in the clouds. Radioactive materials were in metal form so it would not react with water.

Ralph at Trunk Locker joins the chorus of bloggers appealing to everyone not to simply forward messages via SMS without taking time to check on the facts or veracity of the information:

And please if you received the text message, don’t spread it and might as well tell the person who passed it to you that it wasn’t true. In times of crisis, we Filipinos must learn from the Japanese… they were bombarded with calamities… first was the earthquake, then the tsunami and now the impending danger of radiation exposure due to damaged nuclear power plant… but they remained calm… they remained disciplined. It was said in the news that they were waiting in line for their turn to receive relief goods and there were no reported robbing in shops and grocery stores. All praises to them.

However, some like Tiffany Ann Amores-Amortizado, may have doubted the message after doing her own search on the Internet, but still chose to err on the side of caution:

As a mother of 3 young children, I am a known worrier. And to take necessary or UNnecessary precautions, I WILL PLAY IT SAFE and stay indoors for at least 24 hours.

Still on the other hand Blogged Philippines argues that playing safe isn't really safe:

Some may argue that they just followed what the SMS said because its better to be safe. Yes, that saying is absolutely true if the definition of “safe” is clear. In the case of the Fukushima radiation hoax, how many of us is sure that putting an iodine solution in our thyroid will protect us against radiation? Whether it will help or not, I don't know. What I know is that I'm not sure about it. What if the opposite is true, and putting an iodine solution in your necks will even worsen the case? The point is, before making a decision, make sure that you have FACTS.

In the case of the Fukushima Radiation Hoax, the damage is not big. That's something we should be thankful for. It only resulted to people staying at home, suspended classes, and an increase in the sale of “betadine” solution. :-). But think about this: What if the message instead requires a more drastic action? Will you do it?

In an effort to genuinely help out, Korhz shared some tips on how to be prepared when one gets caught in disasters like an earthquake or a nuclear event.

Juan Republic dug deeper into the hoax message, illustrating how Filipino culture with its penchant for gossip have contributed to how it got so viral:

It all started with a chismis – an unconfirmed text message that was repeatedly forwarded because of fear. Whoever was the one behind this fiasco, he succeeded. He induced fear and changed the normal routine of some of the Filipinos. He created an instant talk-of-the town. Or if he did it for fun, for sure, he laughed his ass out.

It’s just so disappointing that some idiots grab the opportunity of a disaster to create something stupid and for self-gratification.

Should our chismis culture be blamed? Our love for showbiz-oriented shows and tabloid-liked stories may be a factor.

Unfortunately, they passed the wrong message.

And the rest was an infamous story.

With today’s technology, news and information can be delivered faster. But technology doesn’t give us accuracy or veracity instantly.

Then there's this satirical piece on Mosquito Press hitting back at Filipinos, sharply pointing out that being easily affected by hoaxes is due to their ‘exceptional gullibility.’

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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