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Authorities waging war vs. fake volcanologists in social media

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By Aaron Recuenco

LEGAZPI CITY — Authorities here are waging a war against fake volcanologists who suddenly sprouted in the social media after the Mayon Volcano’s quiet eruption last week.

There seems to be no hitches as everybody is entitled to express their opinion on their social media accounts, according to Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

But the problem is that the opinions of some netizens who suddenly became experts on volcanoes and disaster management are being believed by some residents reading the posts.

An aerial view of the Mayon Volcano (Phivolcs / MANLA BULLETIN)

This photo taken on January 17, 2018 shows an aerial view of the Mayon Volcano
(Phivolcs / MANLA BULLETIN)

“We received a lot of complaints and we have been the subject of attacks because of these fake analyses on Mayon Volcano being posted in the social media,” Daep told the Manila Bulletin here.

Even radio stations here are receiving commentaries in the social media about the various inaccurate and conflicting advisories and analyses which ironically did not come from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“The problem is when the people started to believe on what these fake volcanologists have to say because it affects our strategies on evacuation and public safety from the threat of Mayon,” said Daep.

For instance, when a decrease in the volcano activities were monitored since Thursday, a lot of commentaries and analyses have sprouted in the social media that any hazardous eruption is already unlikely.

This led an expert from the Phivolcs to raise the issue in a press briefing here which comes with an appeal not to believe them.

“I would like to dispel any notion that since there were decreases in its activity, the explosive eruption is already unlikely. That is not true. We are still looking at several parameters,” said volcanologist Mariton Bornas.

“We have to look at all the parameters on a daily, hourly basis for changes because anything could still happen anytime,” she added.

Receptive

Daep said they do not totally shut themselves from the analyses on the social media especially on the aspect of evacuation and evacuation center management.

“That is okay because they are entitled to their opinions and they also wanted to help. And there are some brilliant ideas there that we are also taking into considerations,” said Daep.

“But in order not to create confusion, it should be scientific and technical,” he added.

The official said they are aware that most of the Mayon evacuees have access to social media especially Facebook.

And these false analyses, he said, have immediate impact on them.

In the end, it is the proper authorities who would be held responsible especially if it already endangers the lives of the people living near the Mayon Volcano.

Measures

One of the measures they adopted, according to Daep, is to withhold some facts which they deem to be prone to misinterpretation of keyboard volcanologists.

“So if we saw some problems and if Mayon shows something and if there are factors that can contribute or aggravate to the situation, we analyze them .and whatever analysis that we come up, we issue them in a form of advisory for countermeasure in terms of safety output,” said Daep.

Another measure is to intensify coordination with the media in order to only release the official pronouncements and advisories.

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