'We need immediate help': Ressa appeals for tech regulation at US Senate


Posted at Mar 31 2022 04:14 PM

Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa speaks during the award ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2021. Heiko Junge, EPA-EFE/File 
Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa speaks during the award ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2021. Heiko Junge, EPA-EFE/File 


MANILA — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa on Thursday (Manila time) urged US lawmakers to revise a law that protects internet service providers and social media platforms from being held liable for content created by users of their services.

At a US Senate foreign relations subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, the Rappler CEO said some American tech giants had become "an insidious tool for tyranny globally".

"Right now, I appeal to US legislators to reform or revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because we, at the frontlines, need immediate help," she said.

"We can’t solve the global existential problems if we don't win the battle for facts, and we can't have the integrity of elections if we don't have integrity of facts," she added.

False and misleading claims have flooded Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter in the lead-up to the May 9 polls. 

Ressa noted that the European Union had agreed on a sweeping law to curb the market dominance of US Big Tech giants.

The Digital Markets Act is designed to protect consumers and give rivals a better chance to survive against the world's powerful tech juggernauts.

The law also aims to avert the years of procedures and court battles needed to punish Big Tech's monopolistic behavior where cases can end with huge fines but little change in how the giants do business.

Ressa, a staunch defender of press freedom, called on the US government to "move faster" in putting guardrails around tech companies and strengthen journalism against misinformation and disinformation.

"The platforms and the autocrats that exploit them must be held accountable, and democratic governments must move faster," she said.

In her speech, Ressa also detailed the assaults on press freedom in the Philippines in recent years. She cited government investigations and court battles she faced, the alleged government harassment of Rappler, and the non-renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.

She also noted President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war and the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.

“Remember Sen. Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary and head of the Commission on Human Rights, last month began her sixth year in prison. Amnesty International calls her a prisoner of conscience," she said. 

"Or young journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who spent her last 2 birthdays in prison. Or former colleague Jess Malabanan, he was killed by a bullet to his head. He worked on Reuters’ drug war series that won a Pulitzer Prize."

The Philippine government has denied that the cases against De Lima were politically-motivated, and said problems facing media organizations were legal, not political. Authorities also belied involvement in vigilante killings of drug users and peddlers. 

The US Senate hearing was chaired by Democrat Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and attended as well by Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

For his part, Markey said it was an honor for the committee to personally hear from Ressa, considering the risks she had taken and the sacrifices she had made for the Philippines and the world.

Ressa was joined by Joey Siu, policy advisor at UK-based Hong Kong Watch, and Sarah Cook, research director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Freedom House. 

— With reports from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse