Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa want government — and private media networks — to control social media, what kind of information the people are exposed to, and what we are allowed to say online.
This can be gleaned from a statement made by Senator Aquino himself in a recent article in Philippines News Agency (PNA), which said Aquino has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a “media literacy week” or “responsible social media use week” to combat misinformation on social media.
“Maybe we can work on something that can match that level of speed, exponential growth and energy that we see online… This is something we can explore further and I’m confident that everyone will be willing to volunteer,” Aquino, who chairs the Senate committee on education, said.
(Note: The article has disappeared from the PNA website but can still be read here.)
The PNA report said Aquino called on DepEd and different stakeholders to join forces in “combating rampant trolling and spread of misinformation on social media.”
Now here’s where it gets interesting: Aquino was quoted as saying that to date, Ressa and Carlo Ople of the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) have already expressed their willingness to help the initiative against trolling and misinformation on social media.
If you remember, it was Ressa who tweeted, “Time to take back the internet. Time to take back social media,” as if the internet and social media belong to her and her ilk. She has been on a campaign to cleanse the internet of “paid trolls, fallacious reasoning, and leaps in logic,” making the equally fallacious assertion that Rappler’s falling numbers is somehow being caused by the Duterte administration.
(Note: We tried to reach out to Ms. Maria Ressa but our message to her five days ago was left unanswered.)
In an article on her own website, Ressa said the Duterte administration has hired an army of paid trolls — some earning as much as P5 million each — to disrupt social media and shape public opinion to its own agenda.
“In the Philippines, paid trolls, fallacious reasoning, leaps in logic, poisoning the well — these are only some of the propaganda techniques that have helped shift public opinion on key issues,” Ressa said.
She has not, of course, been able to present any proof that such an army of paid trolls exists. In fact, we at MindaNation can attest to the fact that every pro-Duterte person, page, website, and Twitter account we know is not paid to push any agenda.
Mainstream media have been suffering drops in readership and online following due to the surging popularity of alternative online news and opinion outlets. This has evidently led them to label such alternative sites as fake — including MindaNation which landed on one such list.
Back to Maria Ressa: She has apparently taken her campaign directly to the government, appearing at a Senate education committee hearing on October 18, 2016 where she batted for “media literacy.” She said this is the “long-term solution to fight the worsening state of disinformation and abuse on social media.”
During the hearing, she repeated her assertion that some people — meaning Duterte’s army of paid trolls — are using Facebook’s “algorithms” to create networks that promote posts on feeds, “regardless of authenticity and accuracy.”
As for Senator Aquino, he said the main concern right now is to recognize the problem and later find a solution. He did not elaborate on what the problem exactly is, however.
He also said these efforts are meant “to create a society that is more humane and compassionate towards each other and a Philippines that is more tolerant of different ideas and beliefs.”
The agenda is therefore clear: While Aquino and Ressa are talking “media literacy,” they actually mean to take down free speech and take out any form of dissent in the internet and social media. They want an internet and social media that conform to the agenda of the oligarchy.