The ‘PH Coronavirus Updates’ Telegram channel has been silent for days and it’s worrying Filipinos

August 27, 2020 - 1:08 PM
Teenagers on their smartphones
Stock photo of teenagers scrolling through their smartphones. (Photo from Creative Commons)

The volunteer-run Telegram channel that uploads news blasts and updates about the coronavirus situation in the country, as well as government policies concerning community quarantine measures, has been silent for more than two days now.

Telegram channel “PH Coronavirus Updates,” a group that more than 140,900 Filipinos are subscribed to—including journalists—have not been posting updates since it announced that President Rodrigo Duterte‘s speech will be aired on Tuesday.

Aside from updates on the health crisis in the Philippines, the channel also shares information from experts on the global community about the viral disease through videos and articles with an accompanying brief caption or summary about the report.

The channel likewise updates Filipinos about countries with the highest number of total COVID-19 cases every morning to make them aware about the situation outside the Philippines.

It similarly gives summaries of the president’s national addresses to keep them updated in case they are not able to watch his recorded speeches.

But on Tuesday morning, the channel failed to deliver its regular report on the top countries with the highest COVID-19 cases.

Likewise, it failed to post the health department’s daily case bulletin on the Philippines’ COVID-19 situation.

It also didn’t post any updates or news blasts on the succeeding days, which prompted some of its subscribers to express their concerns on social media.

“Highkey worried for the admins of PH Coronavirus Updates channel on Telegram… they last posted on Monday… after months of daily updates… y’all okay?” a Twitter user wrote.

“Anyone know why the PH Coronavirus Updates on Telegram hasn’t been active since the other day?” another online user commented.

She added that she has been “waiting” for the channel to give its summary on Duterte’s speech aired Tuesday morning.

Another Twitter user shared a screenshot of several other subscribers wondering about the channel’s sudden silence and added that its account on the microblogging platform has been quiet as well.

The Twitter account of the channel, which has almost 1,000 followers, has not been posting updates as well. Its last post was a retweet of its August 4 tweet urging agencies to contact someone who approached them about a study.

Meet the team

The channel is run by five people who launched the initiative in January, when the coronavirus disease was still called a “mysterious disease” from China.

The initiative, according to the team’s feature in The Philippine Star, started as a “venue” for their family and friends “who were getting a lot of inaccurate information from social media.”

“We noticed that little was known about the virus, so we were concerned that misinformation would be rampant. We also noted how some social media platforms failed to fact check many of the unverified information. It was, therefore, a responsibility that we put for ourselves, especially as more people joined the channel and gave us their trust,” they said.

The team decided to use Telegram since it was the platform used by the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong to securely communicate during protests.

Eventually, the channel’s following grew as it reached over 130,000 subscribers in July.

“Aside from information related to COVID-19, we also post other information that we deem relevant for Filipinos, such as those concerning natural disasters and other developments,” the team said.

“Misinformation also remains a major concern, especially on social media. To ensure that the information we share is factual, we had to triangulate the information that we got before a member could post it,” they added.

The team said that they only share information that they have checked from the national government and their media sources to ensure accuracy.

“For us, arming the general public with factual information and quality content would enable the Philippines to survive this pandemic. The team learned that the public is looking for trustworthy and dependable information so they need to post the truth,” they said.