Maria Ressa: 'My battle against information polluted by Silicon Valley'
The Filipino journalist threatened by Duterte at the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo: "A corporate system designed only to make money is having distatrous consequences in real time in countries like mine, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and many others." Thoughts on Jimmi Lay convicted in Hong Kong. May elections in Manila "a battle of life and death for democracy".
Oslo (AsiaNews) - On Human Rights Day, the Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, founder of the independent website Rappler, received the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo. It was awarded to her together with her Russian colleague Dmitri Muratov. Maria Ressa gave a heartfelt speech at the ceremony in which - starting from her own experience - she also recalled the many other journalists threatened and imprisoned "Jimmy Lai languishing in a Hong Kong prison, Sonny Swe, who after getting out of more than 7 years in jail started another news group … now forced to flee Myanmar. And in my own country, 23 year old Frenchie Mae Cumpio, still in prison after nearly 2 years, and just 36 hours ago the news that my former colleague, Jess Malabanan, was shot dead."
In her speech, the new Nobel Peace Prize winner leveled harsh accusations against the social media industry. "The attacks against us at Rappler - said Maria Ressa - when we demanded an end to impunity on two fronts: Duterte’s drug war and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. Today, it has only gotten worse – and Silicon Valley’s sins came home to roost in the United States on January 6 with mob violence on Capitol Hill. What happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media. Online violence is real world violence."
She continued "Social media is a deadly game for power and money, what Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, extracting our private lives for outsized corporate gain. Our personal experiences are sucked into a database, organized by AI, then sold to the highest bidder. Highly profitable micro-targeting operations are engineered to structurally undermine human will – a behavior modification system in which we are Pavlov’s dogs, experimented on in real time with disastrous consequences in countries like mine, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and so many more. These destructive corporations have siphoned money away from news groups and now pose a foundational threat to markets and elections. Facebook is the world’s largest distributor of news, and yet studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts on social media. These American companies controlling our global information ecosystem are biased against facts, biased against journalists. They are – by design – dividing us and radicalizing us.."
"How can there be elections with integrity if there is no integrity of facts?" wondered the journalist, who called the upcoming Philippine elections a matter "of life and death." "5 years after the People Power revolt ousted Ferdinand Marcos and forced his family into exile, his son, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is the front runner – and he has built an extensive disinformation network on social media, which Rappler exposed in 2019. That is changing history in front of our eyes" She cited "the Chinese information operations blocked by Facebook in September 2020: they were creating fake accounts using AI generated photos for the U.S. election, they were cleaning up the image of the Marcoses, campaigning for Duterte's daughter, and attacking Rappler and me."
"An invisible atomic bomb," she concluded, "hAn invisible atom bomb exploded in our information ecosystem, and the world must act as it did after Hiroshima. Like that time, we need to create new institutions, like the United Nations, and new codes stating our values, like the universal declaration of human rights, to prevent humanity from doing its worse. It’s an arms race in the information ecosystem. To stop that requires a multilateral approach that all of us must be part of. It begins by restoring facts" and "standing up to states that target journalists."