Facebook users should be left to decide what is fake and what is authentic

When Rappler CEO Maria Ressa announced what was supposed to be a momentous “partnering” of her “social news network” and Vera Files with social media giant Facebook to “fact check” Filipinos’ social media activities, she was probably expecting to be lauded as a “hero” in the world’s “fight” against disinformation. Instead, the opposite has happened. Ressa is now being derided as a presumptuous fool who is trying to fix a nonexistent problem.

The problem with the “fact checking” regime she and Vera Files personality Ellen Tordesillas cooked up is that it is a “solution” that does not address the root cause of the proliferation of “fake news” on Facebook. The root cause behind the spread of disinformation over Facebook is its users’ thinking faculties. The real problem is, Filipinos seem to lack an ability to separate fact from fantasy. This characteristic can be seen in an industry that predates the advent of social media — traditional Filipino showbiz.

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In Filipino showbiz, actors and actresses routinely take on the personas of the fictitious characters they play on film and television and often use them for personal and political profit. Look no further than Lito Lapid, the father-and-son Revillas and Estradas, the late Fernando Poe Jr, Sharon Cuneta, and other screen personalities that went on to achieve political success in the Philippines. These politicians won on the back of information that had nothing to do with their qualifications to lead or represent Filipinos as government officials. Filipino voters evaluated them during elections on the basis of their fictitious veneers rather than doing the extra work of looking past those and deeper into their authentic character.

There is no top-down mechanism in Philippine elections to “fact check” how campaigning politicians pitch themselves to the electorate. The only mechanism available is a competition to earn the trust and confidence of the voters. The idea of censoring campaign messaging and paraphernalia is a ridiculous notion. The job of sorting out what is authentic and fake is left to the presumed intelligence of the voting public.

In the same manner, Facebook and other social media sites are similar platforms upon which various agents and the information they deliver compete for the attention of their users. It is a free market where every participant is expected to take personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. In short, the problem is therefore deeper than the nature of the platform. It has more to do with the quality of the participants in that market.

Regulators in free societies aim to maintain the dynamism of the free market by ensuring there is sufficient competition. This is why, in a lot of cases, monopolies need to be broken up and agents enjoying unfair advantages to compete, such as inside information, are investigated and sanctioned. In this light, it is easy to see that a Facebook that relies on “fact checking” to limit diversity runs counter to conventional regulation measures applied to free competitive environments.

More importantly, the argument that Filipinos can “opt out” of Facebook if they no longer like its policies is flawed. Facebook enjoys a monopolistic hold on Filipino eyeballs thanks to the “free data” carriage it enjoys with the Philippines’ biggest telcos and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Thus, no real alternatives even exist outside of Facebook. This further highlights how deeply problematic the “fact checking” regime to be implemented by Ressa and Tordesillas on Facebook is. They will be essentially in control of a platform that Filipinos can’t refuse.

The only sensible option is for Facebook to ditch this ridiculous plan and focus more on regaining the trust of its users and of their governments by being more transparent. This could also involve either making the algorithm it employs to raise or bury content in their users’ timelines more open to scrutiny or decommissioning it altogether. That is a direction way opposite to the regime of pompous “fact checkers” it is currently going towards. It is a path to authoritarianism, patronage, and opaqueness — a position that is asking for more trouble for the already embattled social media giant.

14 Replies to “Facebook users should be left to decide what is fake and what is authentic”

  1. Maria Reesa and Ellen Tordesillas, the “fact checkers ? Maria Reesa’s Rappler.com put Fake News in its news. Ellen Tordesillas is an Aquino Cojuangco political axis media agent.

    Are these two people, more intelligent , more informed, more educated and wiser than the rest of us? That they could claim, what is good to go inside our minds ?

    We , ourselves are old enough, to know what is good, or bad, to go inside our minds. We don’t need any kind of “fact checkers”; to check what is fact and fictitious, in what we read.

    This “fact checker” bullshit, is just a pretense by these two Aquino Cojuangco political axis minions, to Censor the media; and classify, what helps their political and personal agendas, for public consumption. The move by FaceBook and these two idiots, stinks, from the very beginning.

    We don’t want Covert Censorship of any kind, by whoever political party, you serve; or any other political entities, who have a “hidden agenda of their own. We want Free Market of Ideas. The best ideas win. The wrong ideas, go to the garbage. It is up to the readers to decide, for themselves. Not decided by , Maria Reesa or Ellen Tordesillas.

  2. she is against the will of the pilipinos for a change. the government should check her nationality and if found not a pilipino she must be deported right away.

  3. if am not mistaken, she is the maria ressa upon graduating her UP journalism joined the National Media Production Center (NMPC) under director Gregorio Cendana of the office of the president Marcos. if so, she’s not a natural born pilipino she just studied in the philippines for her journalism course and joined NMPC with Ronnie Natanielz after graduating. she’s a Srilankan/east indian natural born.

  4. If the title would have been “Filipino Facebook users should be left to decide what is fake and what is authentic” then I really dont understand why Filipino newspapers and otherPH news media, are not allowed to be funded by foreign companies/individuals? If it is only to protect the filipinos from foreign impact/influence then the title of this article is not really chosen well. Every single human being is and must be able to check and double check every news info whether it is phoney or not.

    1. Probably because media investment is largely a political investment. When you have indirect control over the politics, you’re practically THE government.

  5. I just want to share my views on this issue: Facebook was forced by the CIA mafia to put Rappler and Vera Files to censor Facebook news feeds, so they can control the information that Facebook users read, especially, those feeds favoring the government. In doing so, they can freely demonize President Duterte and make his supporters go against him. The CIA mafia wants Duterte ousted to put in power their puppet LP’s, particularly Leni Robredo who is controlled by Noynoy Aquino. That way, the US can again control the economic policy and everything in the Philippines, just like what they did in the previous administrations. The CIA mafia is on the move and they’re in a hurry. God help us.

      1. Nothing, really. There is no factual basis whatsoever. This scenario just came out of my suspicious mind. That’s why I wrote “share my views on the issue” at the beginning of the paragraph. No offense meant.

      1. Lol! Thought I’m gonna be kicked out from here. By the way, I am not my idol Mr. Bobi T. I’m an OFW who drops by this site on a daily basis. I appreciate your attention… Thanks.

  6. I think FB users should be allowed to opt out if they choose, and opt in. But I’d opt in. I don’t use BF for news. And this site doesn’t really generate much

  7. An opinion should always be based on true, raw factual evidence.

    The problem here is that many people are uncritical about the things that they read and their sources. (Ugh, need I mention the time when many people actually thought the satire article about Filipinos lacking a satire gene was actually serious?) As a result, they form opinions based on their faulty perceptions of reality.

    The best way to combat fake news is to teach people how to research and evaluate sources properly.

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