Friday, June 14, 2024

Ressa wants law penalizing social media that allow disinformation to spread

Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa said during a Senate committee investigation on online disinformation that a law should be passed penalizing technology and social media companies that continue to allow disinformation and misinformation to proliferate in their platforms.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa

“In our country, what can we do? The quick solution would be to actually hold the platforms accountable for what they spread, what they allow to spread. And when you do that, I bet you that you would automatically see a shrinking of information operations,” Ressa said during the virtual hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

For Ressa, the “infodemic” online has catapulted the narratives of populist regimes, including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s “us vs them” narrative, which has now further divided the Filipino people.

“Facebook is now the world’s largest distributor of news and yet studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than the really boring facts. So the reality is, the platforms that deliver the facts to you are biased against facts, they are biased against journalists. And they are, by design, dividing us and radicalizing us,” she added.

As to the fears that the legislation might trample on freedom of speech, Ressa argued that it is the algorithm of the distribution channels that are seeking to be controlled and not the content.

“So where are you going to intervene? Don’t intervene in the content because you can actually be accused of censorship,” Ressa explained.

“But if you go to the algorithms of amplification… because everyone can say what they think. But what your neighbor said never reaches broadcast scale until today, because there have been no guardrails on the distribution of lies,” she added.

The newly minted Nobel laureate said the country should defeat disinformation as soon as possible to have an “integrity of elections” in 2022.

“If we don’t have an integrity of facts, we will not have integrity of elections. If you look at every study of fascism globally, they first tear down the facts,” said Ressa.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who heads the Senate committee conducting the hearing, said the unprecedented scale, speed, and scope of technology used in disinformation distorts the truth that allows people to make informed decisions.

Pangilinan shared Ressa’s sentiments in his opening message, saying that the “infodemic” threatens democracy.

“‘Infodemic’ threatens the very fiber of our decency as a people. The situation has gone so very bad that even the traditionally quiet community of 18 business groups issued a statement against disinformation and hate speech,” he said.

The lawmaker vowed that he will support any move that will hold accountable the individuals behind the proliferation of fake news and the channels that amplify the same.

“We must have laws that are up-to-date, responsive to the needs of the times, foolproof as best at it can be against the ingenious minds of criminals ika’ nga… We have to craft new laws or legislation cognizant of the new complications that technology poses,” Pangilinan said.

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