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Malacañang gathers forces to block Rappler, VERA files as censors of fake news on Facebook: Dilawan mga ‘yan!

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Malacañang on Monday expressed its opposition against Facebook’s fact-checking partnership with Rappler and Vera Files to prevent the spread of “fake news” on the social media platform.

“I commiserate with those who object to the selection of Rappler and Vera files because they know, we know, where they stand on the political spectrum,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

“I would say that the efforts of Facebook to counter fake news is the solution and not legislation. However, there are those who are complaining that the chosen police of the truth, so to speak, are sometimes partisan themselves and of course, this is the problem with truth that can be subjective depending on your political perspective,” he added.

Several Duterte supporters, who have tagged Rappler as “yellow” and reported fake news about the President to taint his reputation, have shifted to Russian-based social media platform VKontakte (VK) after Facebook announced its fact-checking initiative.

They also opposed the fact-checking partnership since Rappler allegedly violated the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership on mass media.

Since the partnership was announced, Facebook has started blocking websites that have supposedly been publishing fake news articles defending Duterte from critics.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) executive Jimmy Bondoc, on his official Facebook account, threatened to start a nationwide petition to delete Facebook and move to another social media website. Bondoc’s post has been deleted but screen shots were shared online.

“I will personally commence a nationwide petition to delete Facebook. I also assure you that I will be supported strongly,” Bondoc said.

Paula Defensor-Knack, sister of the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, also urged Duterte supporters to move to VK to bring their defense of the President and the Philippines to the international audience.

“Do not let yellows censor or fact-check you. Let’s leave them to talk to themselves and get votes. We will tell the world what is truth in another platform — this time, in Europe!” Defensor-Knack said.

“It’s the free marketplace of ideas. My advice is for the Facebook users to make their wishes known to Facebook and of course the possibility of shifting is always there,” Roque said.

Roque also pointed out that there have also been calls to delete Facebook after it was involved in a data mining scandal where personal information of more than a million Filipino users may have been shared without their consent.

“There’s a worldwide movement to delete Facebook not just because of their moves in the Philippines but because also of privacy concerns,” Roque said.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), for its part, lauded Facebook’s fact-checking initiative but protested the choice of fact-checkers, referring to Rappler and Vera Files.

“We give our all-out support to them in their efforts to combat the creation and spread of false news that have poisoned our shared space and dumbed down, if not encouraged, vicious discourse in our online community — and that has served no one in any good way,” PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Tablang Badoy said in a statement.

“We would also like to register our protest at the choice of fact-checkers by Facebook and this will be on the agenda when we finally get to sit with them soon,” she added.

Badoy, however, said that efforts are underway for both the PCOO and Facebook to discuss and hopefully, reach agreements on the responsible use of social media. (With reports from Elijah D. Mendoza,OJT/PNA)