Hold the law holding social media giants accountable for the lies spread

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“The reality is that the platforms that give you the facts are biased against the facts, they are biased against journalists,” says Nobel laureate Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines – Nobel Peace Laureate and press freedom icon Maria Ressa has called on Philippine senators to draft a law that would hold tech and social media giants accountable for the lies they they allow it to be propagated online.

Rappler’s CEO was invited to speak on the disinformation networks plaguing democracies around the world – including the Philippines – during the Senate Committee’s Third Hearing on Constitutional Amendments and Code Review on Wednesday 12 January.

Panel chair and Senator Kiko Pangilinan, and Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon – opposition senators who are primarily targeted by government trolls and propagandists – asked Ressa what can be done to stop the spread of lies on social media, while balancing that with the need to protect free speech.

Ressa said a “quick” fix is ​​to draft legislation that would hold social media platforms accountable for what they allow to proliferate online.

She said this was possible in the Philippines but not in the United States, where section 230 of its Communications Decency Act protects internet service providers, social media giants and website owners from any liability for content. posted by someone else.

“In our country, what can we do? And in this case, we don’t have section 230. The quick solution would therefore be to hold the platforms accountable for what they broadcast, for what they allow to broadcast. And when you do that, I bet you would automatically see a decrease in IO, ”Ressa said.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has long argued that disinformation on social media platforms has caused division and cultivated the worst human behavior around the world.

She said earlier that populist digital authoritarians have used this infodemic – a hanger of “information” and “epidemic” – to perpetuate their power.

Ressa said this was evident in the Philippines, where algorithms have helped amplify President Rodrigo Duterte’s “us versus them” rhetoric to further divide Filipinos over the past five years.

“Facebook is now the biggest news distributor in the world and yet studies have shown that lies mixed with anger and hate spread faster and farther than really boring fasts. The reality is therefore that the platforms that deliver the facts to you are biased against the facts, they are biased against journalists. They are, on purpose, dividing and radicalizing us, ”she said.

Freedom of expression vs freedom of distribution

Ressa told the Philippine Senate committee that the issue here is not freedom of speech, but the freedom of distribution that platforms are now abusing. This is precisely why his suggestion is that the legislation focus on preventing the use of these algorithms by peddlers of disinformation.

“So where are you going to step in?” Do not interfere with the content because then you could be accused of censorship. But if you switch to amplification algorithms… Because everyone can say what they think, but what your neighbor has said never reaches the diffusion scale until today, because it does not There have been no safeguards on the dissemination of lies, ”Ressa said.

During the hearing, Drilon considered the possibility of treating social media platforms like publishers, as traditional media in the Philippines is regulated by several laws and policies to ensure that it meets the ethics and standards of journalism. . There are currently no similar guarantees covering social media.

“In traditional media, the publisher is responsible because theoretically, he controls the media, including newspapers, radio, etc. But in social media, platform owners aren’t held accountable, they’re not seen as publishers, ”the veteran lawmaker said.

In the previous hearing, Drilon also sought advice regarding the creation of a law that would require social media platforms to reveal the identities of trolls. – Rappler.com

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