Duterte’s comms office opposes Facebook’s fact-checking partnership with Rappler and Vera Files

The Philippines’ Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is not happy about Facebook’s decision to partner with news website Rappler and non-profit news organization Vera Files for a new fact-checking program. And according to a statement made by an official yesterday, the office plans to oppose this.

In a message sent by PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy to ABS-CBN News, she said that while the office supports Facebook’s initiative to lessen fake news, they would also like to “register our protest at the choice of fact-checkers by Facebook.”

Badoy said they plan to raise the issue when they meet with the social media company.

“Efforts are underway for both the PCOO and Facebook to sit across the table and discuss and hopefully, reach agreements that will get us closer to our shared goal of responsible and intelligent use of social media,” she said.

During a media briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque expressed the same sentiment, saying that the two outlets “are sometimes partisan themselves.”

This complaint comes on the heels of Duterte supporters this weekend pushing for a switch to Russian social media platform VK to: “leave Vera Files and Rappler with no one to talk to or no account to suspend on FB.”

The outrage from certain quarters is unsurprising given that both Rappler and Vera Files have been tagged by administration supporters and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte himself as biased against the administration.

In response to a story Rappler published about Special Assistant to the President Bong Go allegedly intervening in a PHP15.5 billion (approx. US$300 million) project to acquire ships for the Philippine Navy, Duterte said:

“You can stop your suspicious mind from roaming somewhere else. But since you are a fake news outlet and I am not surprised your articles are also fake, we can debate. Now tell me where are our lies and tell me where are yours.”

However, the PCOO has also had its fair share of criticism for publishing false information.

This includes errors by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that went viral, including using the Dole Food Corporation logo in a story about the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)  — it’s still funny —  and publishing articles that still had the editor’s notes.

But the office has also been under fire for more serious matters, particularly incidents concerning blogger and Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

Uson is known for sharing fake news through her Facebook page, which has more than 5 million followers. There have been various protests calling for her dismissal, including one that was held earlier this month.

On April 3, members of Akbayan Youth, a democratic socialist organization, filed a complaint against Uson before the Office of the Ombudsman, asking for Uson to be fired because of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

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