Groundbreaking Philippine Editor Challenges Tech Giants to Protect the Public Sphere

|
Maria Ressa Accepts 2018 Knight Award

Maria Ressa, whose trailblazing news site is under constant threat for speaking truth to power in her native Philippines, says social media giants that have been used to spread lies have a responsibility to protect the public sphere.

In Washington to accept the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award, Ressa criticized both the Philippines government and global tech companies for harming democracy and threatening news organizations such as Rappler, which she founded seven years ago after a long career at CNN.

Rappler, a popular online news site, has been at the forefront of both investigative journalism and media innovation. Its coverage of disinformation campaigns and tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the government’s war on drugs have made Rappler a target of official attacks.

Ressa said that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was using the same playbook as Donald Trump in his attacks on the press by banning reporters and labeling critical stories fake news. “Our problems are fast becoming your problems. Boundaries around the world have collapsed,” she said.

“We battle impunity from the Philippine government and from Facebook. Both seed violence, fear, and lies that poison our democracy,” she said. “Those lies on social media form the basis of the government’s many legal cases against us.”

Ressa issued a challenge to social media giants, noting that 90 percent of new digital ads went to Google and Facebook in 2017, with more expected in 2018. “Now the social media tech giants are the world’s largest distributor of news. Yet, they shy away from the responsibilities that come with that – and that has global impact: allowing authoritarian-style leaders to use their platforms to cripple trust, remold truth, and consolidate their power.”

She urged the tech companies to “consider making the same tough business decisions our little company made to protect the public sphere and to ensure democracy survives.”

She also urged journalists to stay the course. “Without hope, we have no energy to move forward. We have to take the long view, work together and know we are not alone. This is a global battle.”

Latest News

From a Fledgling Blog to a Vibrant News Group, Agencia Mural Reports on the Poorest in Brazil

In 2010, Vagner de Alencar took a journalism course by ICFJ Knight Fellow Bruno Garcez and became a blogger for a citizen journalism site launched by Garcez to cover São Paulo's favelas. Almost 10 years later, the blog has grown into a well-respected news site and Alencar is now co-director of Agencia Mural, overseeing almost 90 correspondents in dozens of favelas around the massive city.

Facebook Journalism Project Renews ICFJ Partnership to Help Arab Journalists Combat Misinformation

More than 10,000 journalists across the Middle East and North Africa will learn to identify social media solutions that will strengthen the quality of reporting and help them make stronger connections with their audiences, through an initiative of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Facebook Journalism Project

ICFJ Honorees Fight for Journalism that Defends the Truth in Divisive Times

Last night, at ICFJ’s 35th Anniversary Awards Dinner, we celebrated outstanding journalists who speak truth to power and have great impact. The honorees challenged journalists to fight corruption, speak up for the powerless and stand up to those who seek to distort the truth.