Sen. Marcos questions Rappler, Vera Files as Facebook fact-checkers in PH

 By Rjay Zuriaga Castor


Senator Imee Marcos on Wednesday has questioned why social media giant Facebook  tapped news organizations perceived to be critical of the Duterte administration as fact-checkers.

"‘Yong laging daing ng ating administrasyon kung bakit ang fact-checker na ginagamit ng Facebook eh ‘yong dalawang tanyag na media na bumabatikos kay President Duterte sa kada kilos, halos. ‘Yong Rappler at ‘yong Vera Files, bakit itinatag ‘yan bilang gatekeeper, ika nga,” Marcos raised during a hearing of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, which she chairs.

“So I think the ‘politicizing’ question becomes very, very confused,” she added.

At the same time, Marcos, first daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, admitted feeling resentful after Facebook’s took down several Marcos pages during last election’s campaign period for alleged “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“Ang parati nating sinasabi yung coordinated [inauthentic] behavior, e kapag eleksyon e talagang coordinated yan. Sasabihin ko na yung totoo, ako may hinanakit sa mga takedown na yan nung March 2019,” Marcos said. 

“Maraming fan pages na mga Marcos loyalists ang nadale diyan. Hindi namin hawak, they’re not registered with the Comelec [Commission on Elections], because we have absolutely no control over these groups,” she added.

The committee was tackling a resolution urging government agencies to devise and install an effective tool that would detect and repel potential foreign interference during the elections.

Jonathan Ong, an academic researcher and professor at the University of Massachusetts, said while some Facebook fact-checkers in other countries have become “more explicit” about their political biases, “we also have to recognize that journalists and fact checkers have done incredible work” in correcting false claims and misinformation on social media.

He cited the “fact-checking and keeping politicians honest with regard to COVID[-19], with regard to medical misinformation.”

“So they have done a lot in terms of deepening our understanding around that,” Ong said as stressed the need for a “multi-stakeholder approach” involving the academe as well as journalists to help address misinformation.

Marcos, however, clarified: “I’m not saying that we don’t need fact-checkers, we absolutely require them.”

In April 2018, Facebook partnered with Rappler and Vera Files as its third-party fact-checking organizations “to better identify and reduce the reach of false news that people share on [its] platform”.

In earlier statements, Rappler and Vera Files said they were fact-checkers accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) of journalism institute Poynter, which Vera Files described as “a global alliance of fact-checkers committed to advancing accountability journalism.” 

Rappler reiterated that it "values truth-telling, facts, and factual reporting"– such that corrects at the first instance inaccuracies spotted in their own reports and false claims made by public officials, key public personalities, and other accounts on social media. 

On the same bid, Rappler clarified that "fact-checking is done both internally and externally to create and sustain an environment anchored on truth, which is essential to a healthy and working democracy."

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