It’s time. Many Filipinos and their “thought leaders” have been criticising the role social media giant Facebook had supposedly been playing in skewing political chatter. Many argue that it had become a platform for “disinformation” and “fake news”. More importantly — in particular, to the oligarchs who are losing money in their once-profitable media businesses — Facebook is eroding the erstwhile command over the discourse enjoyed by traditional news media operations.
Not surprisingly, no less than the Inquirer editor himself calls Facebook a “problematic platform” citing how “free FB is the only internet for millions of people” in the Philippines and, as such, affords it disturbingly disproportionate control over voter sentiment.
It is becoming more evident that Facebook poses an existential threat to democracy and the free market in light of the power it wields over how human individuals think and over how they might move collectively. In his open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Aaron Sorkin, author of The Social Network, points out…
Don’t say Larry Flynt. Not even Larry Flynt would say Larry Flynt. This isn’t the same as pornography, which people don’t rely upon for information. Last year, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook. Of course the problem could be solved by those people going to a different news source, or you could decide to make Facebook a reliable source of public information.
Indeed, Americans can’t get off Facebook. Filipinos, on the other hand, won’t. Big difference right there. Access to the Internet may (arguably) be a right. But access to Facebook specifically? That’s like making drinking Coca Cola a human right and expecting water to compete with it as a means of hydration.
It is therefore clear that Philippine telcos like Globe and Smart are part of the problem. By giving unfair advantage to a private enterprise on what, in essence, is a utility service, these businesses are contributing to propagating what is now considered to be a growing threat to democracy itself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook. What is wrong is the privilege it is given by service providers like Philippine telco giants like Globe and Smart to get into people’s heads.
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