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Fight against disinformation launched, Facebook urged to step in

By Joselle Dela Cruz

A broad coalition of members from the academe, legal professions, civil society groups, and advocacy groups has kicked off a fight to counter systematic and unregulated spread of disinformation on social media.

“Disinformation did not start a month ago or six months ago, it started way back. We would like to establish formal and informal channels on online platforms in order to post concerns and we solve them,” said lead convenor Atty. Tony La Viña during the launch of the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) on Wednesday.

La Viña, political analyst and former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said the priority of the movement is the engagement with platforms and getting them to adopt protective measures against disinformation.

“We’re not interested in just complaining, we’re actually interested in solving those concerns… We’re not enemies of freedom of speech, we’re not enemies of the freedom of the press, we’re not enemies of the social media platforms, we want to actually work with them in a rigorous way,” he said.

La Viña emphasized that the movement will focus on the platform that allowed disinformation to be disseminated and not on individual posts or individual persons.

Philippine Bar Association President and MAD convenor Atty. Rico Domingo said there are lines between the freedom of speech and disinformation that should not be crossed.

“There’s always a continuing line or a continuing clash between the freedom of information versus the other side, maybe disinformation… we will aggressively address that on the legal side because they are not supposed to be protected by the Constitution,” said Domingo.

“We will be checking every news, or every press release, in conjunction with our advocacy and we will monitor them and find out exactly what news or articles have crossed the line such that it would be already something that’s beyond the Constitutional protection,” added Domingo.

Among the members of MAD are Philippine Bar Association, Philippine Chapter-New York Bar Association, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Ateneo de Naga, Ateneo de Davao, Xavier University, Alternative Law Groups, Ateneo Human Rights Center, SALIGAN, Karapatan, iDefend, Wiki Society of the Philippines, Pinoy Media Center, Ateneo Sanggunian, and members of the faculty of Ateneo Law.

The launching and press conference of MAD was held via Zoom and broadcasted live on Now You Know and MAD Facebook pages.

MAD’s Open letter to Facebook

In view of the 2022 Philippine national elections, Facebook was urged to step in the elimination of the spread of electoral disinformation and to provide extensive information about the platform’s content moderation initiatives.

“The way that they are doing it now is that they are just letting actors do whatever they want on the platform. It is only when they are flagged, it is only when someone calls their attention about certain harmful content that they begin to proactively remove,” said MAD convenor Atty. Grace Salonga in an interview with Now You Know.

Salonga also said Facebook should be proactive rather than reactive to organized networks of disinformation spreaders or syndicates of troll farms.

The first initiative of MAD was targeted and time-bound in view of the 2022 elections, Salonga said.

“We urged you to employ mechanisms that will increase transparency, we urged you to put in more resources in your platform, to ensure that you will not allow your platform to be used by bad actors,” she said in an interview.

Domingo said they are also planning to collaborate with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to monitor all the disinformation on the platform.

“We will coordinate as well with the government. We’re not only for civil society but we will try to solicit the cooperation of the Comelec in trying to monitor all this disinformation to the press and to the media,” said Domingo.

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