Social media platforms need to do more to combat disinformation, press freedom advocates say

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2020 08:08 PM | Updated as of May 13 2020 08:53 PM

MANILA - Social media platforms should do more to combat fake news or disinformation, experts said.

Lawyer Chel Diokno said social media platforms, including Facebook, should be called to account to make sure that so-called online trolls do not monopolize the conversation on social media.

He added that Facebook’s community standards are not enough.

Speaking in a virtual forum held by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines and the European Union’s Delegation in the Philippines, Diokno said that, while filing a class suit against Facebook should be the last resort, there may be no choice but to take this option if Facebook does not take adequate action against disinformation.

“I understand that there are actually several class suits that have been filed in other countries calling Facebook to account for some of these things,” Diokno said.

“Perhaps if Facebook does not want to listen, there may be no other choice but to go that route. I wouldn’t want to go that route but I do think that as a last resort, perhaps that’s something we should start thinking about because there is some responsibility.

“I think Facebook must accept the fact that it has some responsibility for what is happening on its platform.”

Vergel Santos, trustee at the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said pressure should be brought upon Facebook to take action.

“It’s all a matter of gathering the right amount of pressure to bring upon Facebook to realize that it cannot be making judgment and be taken as supreme in them,” Santos said.

“I think it’s all a matter of coming together and bringing the right amount of pressure on Facebook and on whoever you might be doing things in that arbitrary way.”

Lutz Güllner, head of the division for strategic communications and information analysis at the European Union’s European External Action Service, said that while social media platforms have done commendable steps, such as promoting authoritative sources of information during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have the obligation to make sure their community rules are effective, meaningful, and transparent in their approach in addressing disinformation.

“They have done especially now COVID, they have done really very commendable actions which shows that they can do things, that they are willing and able to do things,” Güllner said.

“We believe they need to do more, we believe they need to do more in being more transparent, about what’s happening on their platform, about how they deal with the issue and the need to be more accountable.”

Santos said the pandemic has been a difficult time for journalists given limited movement and said that government should not be allowed to get away with misdeeds even with the chilling effect it has caused.

“All over the place, we see troops and (armored personnel carriers). That should send enough chills across the place and not to mention the leading broadcast network suffered some form of suppression by its franchise renewal hanging far and therefore unable to broadcast,” Santos said.

Meanwhile, Diokno said NCR Police Office chief Major General Debold Sinas should be held to account for holding a party during the enhanced community quarantine even as he claimed that the photos were old and edited.

Diokno said the incident exposed the uneven implementation of the law since government has been aggressive in running after alleged violators of quarantine rules who are perceived to be anti-administration.

“If it (is) shown that these are not edited, that these were actually taken during the time of the public health emergency, then he should be held to account for that," Diokno said.