Embattled Rappler CEO Maria Ressa seems to think it should be. According to Ressa, content allowed by Facebook to be shared on its site “threatens the country’s democracy.” Ressa adds…
“We’re seeing our democracy eroding in front of our eyes and Facebook is the platform where it’s happening.”
Ressa’s concern lies in planned changes to the algorithm that governs how content is prioritised for appearance in users’ newsfeeds recently announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. According to Ressa, the algorithm change will work against “traditional news” which, she says, “is essentially going to be eased out of the feed.”
It is interesting to note that Ressa fears that the effects of the algorithm change may affect “traditional news”. It is interesting because Rappler has always branded itself as a non-traditional news site and more of a “social news network”.
Nonetheless, Ressa’s concerns surrounding how Facebook plans to be running things in the future seem to have nothing to do with Filipinos’ wellbeing nor the health of their “democracy”. Rappler, like most other traditional news sites, relies on Facebook for the bulk of its referral traffic. What Ressa is really concerned about is Rappler‘s competition which she describes as “some of the more propaganda pages” on Facebook and how the new algorithm might “give them more power”. In effect, Ressa is making a big assumption that any content shared on Facebook that is not based on or linked to “traditional news” is necessarily “fake”.
More level-headed observers note that Facebook’s official announcement emphasises that more organic and personal content will be prioritised over news- and brand-related content. This means successful marketing and influencing on Facebook still comes down to people who know their audience well. The trouble with Ressa is that not only does she not know how to run her business, she has lost touch with her own audience. Rappler has, in recent years, come to be widely-derided as a “sophomoric” site of shills and biased “influencers” who toe the party line of the Philippines’ Liberal Party (the “Yellowtards”). That Ressa, as CEO, failed to set Rappler on a proper path through Philippine corporate regulation and guide its evolution on the basis of sound intelligence on its customers’ sentiments and perception is telling of her dismal business leadership capabilities.
Clearly, it is not an “attack on press freedom” that killed Rappler. It is Ressa’s ineptitude as a CEO that did.
Indeed, the way Ressa is conducting herself in the midst of this personal crisis is just a thin notch above that of a two-year-old spoilt brat. “I’m a journalist and now it is a crime to be a journalist,” says Ressa. And yet there is no evidence (outside of her delusional mind) that journalists are being treated like criminals in the Philippines.
The only thing that is true about Ressa and Rappler is this: Time is up. Facebook is not about to die. But Rappler‘s days, on the other hand, are numbered. Nobody will be foolish enough to follow Ressa into a battle against a giant like Facebook. Perhaps that may be a battle sometime in the future when a true alternative to the planet’s pre-eminent social media platform emerges. But that is not a battle a two-bit CEO like Ressa will lead.
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