A standing ovation greeted 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and journalist Maria Ressa at the packed Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre in Vancouver.
In the discussion hosted by veteran Canadian journalist Carol Off, Ressa warned that by 2024, many countries will be taken over by dictators if the spread of lies and fake news through various social media platforms is not stopped.
Ressa said tech platforms should be held accountable for allowing this but added that governments should also enact laws to stop the spread of lies.
"I'm looking forward to legislation that the EU is doing - the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act - that will prevent the spread of lies, right, that in the end, you can't have a fact based news piece run up against a very salacious lie laced with anger and hate. The lie will always win," she said.
Ressa, whose online news site 'Rappler' released a series of reports that exposed social media troll farms, said journalists also have a responsibility to continue exposing these falsehoods to get back the public’s trust.
"We've borne a lot of the brunt of the attacks, right? Because in order to change the narrative, you get rid of the facts. It's been harder for us. So I think the first is hold the line. We just got to keep doing what we're doing, even if it's harder. And harder to do. That's the first. And then I think the second thing is we need to collaborate."
Off said she is alarmed at what Ressa has revealed in her forthcoming book 'How to Stand Up to a Dictator.'
"She documented very well what the threat is from the social media, tech companies, how they're manipulating information, how they're, how they're exploiting propaganda, to make profit, and how dangerous that is," the CBC journalist said.
Meanwhile, University of British Columbia professor Leonora Angeles said Ressa has made her proud to be a Filipino.
She agreed with Ressa's observation that the world is under siege and faces real danger if nothing is done to uphold facts.
"We are in great trouble if we don't have the shared reality, based on truth based on facts, and if we don't have that shared reality, how can we even frame the problems that we're facing now properly?," Angeles stressed.
Ressa has been hailed internationally for continuing her investigative work despite the threats and charges filed against her by the Duterte administration
Award-winning radio journalist Andrea Crossan, who has worked for the BBC and CBC, said Ressa is an inspiration to journalists everywhere.
Crossan said, "I think, for people who are journalists my age but also for the next generation of journalists coming up, I think it's so powerful for people to see role models like her."
As for journalism student Carla Jubaily, she shared that she now feels a bigger responsibility to get the truth out.
"A lot of journalism nowadays is under attack in the Philippines, in Canada, but in the Philippines, especially," Jubaily said. "And so, as my mom is Filipino, I feel a lot of responsibility to the community to get stories out there with truth."
The Simon Fraser University conferred on Ressa an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in June.