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Open letter to Facebook: Transparency, increased resources against electoral disinformation in 2022


November 17, 2021

“Philippine society needs more. The Filipino people deserve better.”

In view of the 2022 Philippine national elections, Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) urges Facebook to provide comprehensive information about the platform’s content moderation initiatives and to increase its resources to address electoral disinformation.

“In a systematic and widespread reprisal against dissent, the government, especially the military and the police and their allied anti-communist groups, has been using Facebook to ‘red-tag’ activists,” the letter reads.

MAD stresses that even Facebook partnered with local organizations before in order to deteriorate false content on the platform, these measures do not address the continued reliance on algorithms.

“Philippine society needs more. [D]ue to their contextual blindness, tend to amplify and reward the most inflammatory content, including disinformation… The result of your algorithm is a people divided into echo chambers, impaired from distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from lies,” the letter reads.

With this, MAD strongly reminds Facebook of its corporate responsibility to respect human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“You have a significant role in ensuring clean and fair elections in the Philippines in 2022. Please do not allow Facebook to be used, exploited, and weaponized against our democracy again. The Filipino people—your most active users—deserve better,” the letter reads.

Facebook was strongly urged to:

  1. Disclose your comprehensive plans in ensuring that mistruths will not flourish disproportionately in your platform in the context of the upcoming 2022 Philippine national elections, including but not limited to: conducting a human rights impact assessment, transparency in the roll-out of election-related initiatives, and a more robust approach to moderating electoral disinformation.

  2. Enforce Facebook policies to systematically identify and flag for moderation Pages or Groups that mimic and infringe upon the names and branding of legitimate news organizations.

  3. Beyond removing accounts for ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ ensure that efforts to address manipulation of election-related discourse in the Philippines ‘for electoral campaigning’ include violations from authentic accounts, and are enforced in a consistent and transparent manner.

  4. Adopt mandatory labelling for political personalities, both incumbent or aspiring, to guide the public about the nature of and motivation behind the parties.

  5. Increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gives to news ecosystem quality (N.E.Q.) scores to ensure that authoritative news appeared more prominently than sources which spread disinformation and incite anger and hate.

  6. Consistently and transparently engage with actors from Philippine civil society, media, academia, and election-monitoring groups in creating, improving, and implementing moderation initiatives. Engagement and cooperation with trusted partners on the ground should go beyond formal occasional meetings. Civil society organizations should be able to meet with staff members that have decision-making powers over content moderation policies in the region. Facebook should establish and maintain open communication channels and mechanisms with trusted partners especially during ongoing national emergencies, including election period.

The press conference for the launch of Movement Against Disinformation and Open Letter to Facebook was held on Nov. 17, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. via Zoom and broadcasted live on Now You Know and MAD Facebook pages.

The undersigned members of the “Open Letter to Facebook” were MAD, Philippine Bar Association, The Ateneo Human Rights Center, Alternative Law Groups, New York State Bar Association, AccessNow, Foundation for Media Alternatives, UP SAMASA Alumni Association, Now You Vote, iDefend, Ateneo de Naga University College of Law, Lyceum of the Philippines Law, Fact Check Philippines, Karapatan, Ateneo de Manila Sanggunian, Communication for Asia, Saligan, and Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy.

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