Maria Ressa’s Nobel peace prize win is an indictment of Facebook

The Norwegian Nobel Committee marked press freedom on Friday (Oct. 8) by awarding the peace prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. Both journalists are press freedom icons for his or her work in nations the place journalism is usually criminalized, and journalists face authorized dangers or private hazard.

In Ressa’s case, the choice can be an indictment of Facebook, the world’s largest social media firm, which performs a key position in her story.

Taking on Rodrigo Duterte

Ressa co-founded the information web site Rappler in 2011 after years reporting for CNN in southeast Asia. When Rodrigo Duterte rose to energy within the Philippines in 2016, partially fueled by his use of Facebook, Rappler reported each on the brand new president’s violent struggle on medicine and the federal government’s use of Facebook to unfold harmful misinformation.

The regime pushed fakes and narratives on Facebook to discredit political rivals, however when Ressa’s staff began writing about this, Duterte took purpose at her with on-line threats and authorized motion. In 2020, Ressa was convicted on a doubtful cost of “cyber libel,” after a 2021 Rappler piece linked to a newspaper that had made allegations towards a Duterte affiliate. Ressa faces a attainable six years in jail, whereas she and Rappler additionally face fraud and anti-terrorism prices.

Maria Ressa and Facebook

Ressa wasn’t all the time on unhealthy phrases with Facebook. Rappler began as a Facebook web page earlier than it was a standalone web site. In the Philippines, Facebook is free on cellphones, a part of the corporate’s Free Basics program that subsidizes web entry in some creating nations and successfully makes Facebook the default web expertise. Rappler was even an official accomplice of Facebook, an essential standing contemplating how essential the platform is for on-line information within the Philippines.

But since her ordeal, Ressa has change into an outspoken critic of Facebook, its insurance policies towards political leaders like Duterte, and its position within the world south. “Facebook is now the world’s largest distributor of reports and but it has refused to be the gatekeeper,” she advised The New York Times in 2019. “And when it does that, once you enable lies to really get on the identical enjoying subject as info, it taints your entire public sphere.”

In addition to Duterte’s so-called struggle on medicine, the United Nations discovered that Facebook was instrumental in Myanmar’s alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims, an extra indictment of the position the social media big performs in creating nations with authoritarian regimes. In the US, it has been blamed for the rise of Donald Trump.

While Facebook ultimately took down networks of faux accounts within the Philippines, apologized for its position in Myanmar, and banned Donald Trump from the platform, Ressa’s criticism has not ceased.

The Nobel win represents a victory for Ressa, for Rappler, and unbiased journalism in nations the place that’s harmful, however it’s also a rebuke to Facebook, and the type of politics and political violence it has enabled.

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