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Attack on Facebook?

The year is about to close, but guess what: they’re not done with the blame game yet.

In more than one occasion, Maria Ressa and her social media company Rappler have tried so hard to discredit some of the DDS social media bloggers by labelling them as “propagandists.” They also did their best in insinuating that these voices are being paid by the government to show their supposedly blind fanaticism. Even pro-Duterte supporters on social media are being tagged as mere “trolls” in their articles, regardless if these supporters are just stating their personal beliefs in public.

In line with this, I’d like to remind those who continue to question the number of supporters of President Duterte that they cannot deny the millions of votes he garnered last election, and these votes came from real Filipinos who are one with him in bringing change to our country. While it is unfortunate that there were a lot of wrong information being spread during the last elections, like the supposed endorsement of Pope Francis, I don’t think that this was the reason President Duterte won. A lot of issues were thrown at him during this time, from cursing at the Pope to his “rape jokes” to being a killer. But despite all these, he still won and was put into office. And I think his win is due to the fact that people saw him to be different from the usual politicians they’ve seen – that he’s not acting to get into power, but is rather willing to genuinely fight for a better Philippines.

We cannot blame his supporters if they decide to continue to champion his efforts and defend his name in social media especially when they see that he is being attacked even after the elections. We cannot blame them if they lose their trust in mainstream media, because even if the latter denies it, their biases are downright palpable, to the point that Filipinos now refuse to be blinded by their so-called reporting.

In an interview with MSNBC, Maria Ressa ranted that “Facebook needs to moderate its greed, clean up the toxic waste and be accountable for its role as the new gatekeeper to information.” However, given all her attacks against bloggers supporting the current administration, I cannot help but think if this is just another ploy to regain the mainstream media’s control of public opinion. Is she now fighting the platform because she failed miserably in bringing the bloggers down?

I’m not naïve that there are a lot of disinformation being spread on Facebook, but these do not outweigh the power it is giving to the public. In fact, Facebook gave the public the power to question what they believe to be wrong. It now serves as a platform for them to interact with government agencies and even the mainstream media so that their questions can be answered and their qualms be cleared. 

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While it is Maria Ressa’s view that Facebook needs to moderate its greed, for me it must not be done to benefit the greed of a few when it comes to controlling information. It is true that Facebook is now seen as a gatekeeper of information, but I also believe that Filipinos are capable of discerning whether the information they get is right or wrong. Let us not continue to belittle our fellow countrymen by implying that someone has to do it for them. Do not put the blame on others when you lose an audience. Do not blame the bloggers, nor the “paid trolls,” and not the platform itself because maybe, just maybe, the real problem is you.

Let’s start the new year right, not by thinking that information can be controlled by only a select, “intelligent” few, or by thinking about how to control the public view. Rather, let’s start the new year by working together for a better future, a future that will benefit us all.

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