Facebook taps Rappler to fact-check news, Duterte supporters fume

Facebook has unveiled plans to partner with social news website Rappler for a new fact-checking program, a move some supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte — who has previously labeled Rappler “fake news” — are none too happy about.

As a third party fact-checker, Rappler will review news stories shared on Facebook and flag ones that may contain erroneous information.

Aside from Rappler, the Facebook initiative, announced yesterday, will see the social media giant partner with non-profit news organization Vera Files.

According to Rappler, flagged stories will appear lower in people’s news feeds and users will be notified if something they shared was rated as fake. Fact checkers will also write stories that will disprove fake news.

Rappler has been targeted by the government for its critical coverage of the administration.

In January, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s registration for allegedly being owned by foreigners, a violation of Philippine law.

Although the company did have a foreign investor, Rappler said in a statement that this did not constitute foreign ownership as the investment was made through Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs), an instrument that allows foreign companies to invest in local media without acquiring ownership.

Duterte has previously Rappler “fake news” for reporting that Special Assistant to the President Bong Go had allegedly intervened in a PHP15.5 billion (approx. US$300 million) project to acquire ships for the Philippine Navy.

Unsurprisingly, Duterte supporters were not happy about Facebook asking Rappler to verify news.

Yesterday, university professor Antonio Contreras and singer Jimmy Bondoc, both staunch Duterte supporters, shared a Change.org petition telling Facebook that Rappler and Vera Files are “not reliable fact-checkers” and that they might “…use this to further their agenda, and to selectively silence those who don’t agree with their agendas.”

9,241 people have signed the petition as of this article’s posting.

Bondoc, who is also the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s assistant vice president for entertainment, also shared a now-deleted post on Facebook saying he would “personally commence a nationwide petition to delete Facebook.” Good luck with that, bro!

Duterte’s presidential campaign was very social media-focused. A University of Oxford study found that his campaign spent about US$200,000 (about PHP10 million) to hire trolls that will spread Duterte propaganda and bash opposition candidates.

Last week, the South China Morning Post reported that the Duterte campaign also has links to British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. According to the report, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories helped Duterte win the presidency by branding him a “tough crime fighter” in social media campaigns.

According to a statement released by Facebook last week, the Philippines has the second-most number of accounts that may have been shared to Cambridge Analytica, at 1.175 million users.

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