Maria Ressa on how social media can destabilize democracy and journalism


Social media platforms have assumed the role of news distribution sources, but have largely rejected the affiliated gatekeeper role of fact-checking the content they allow on their sites. This abdication has led to the rise of fake news, disinformation and propaganda. 

In this episode of Big Tech, co-hosts David Skok and Taylor Owen spoke with journalist and Rappler founder Maria Ressa, just days before her conviction in a high-profile cyber-libel case against her, as well as her colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr. and Rappler Inc. as a whole. On Monday, June 15, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 ruled that Ressa and Santos Jr. were liable, but that Rappler as a company was not. 

This case is viewed in the larger context as an attack on journalistic freedoms protected under the Filipino Constitution. Ressa has repeatedly come under fire by the Duterte government for calling out what she sees as illiberal-leaning and propaganda. Facebook was a key component of President Rodrigo Duterte’s election in 2016. Ressa explained, “On Facebook, a lie told a million times becomes a fact.” The disinformation that spreads on social media platforms is having real-world impacts on how citizens view democratic institutions. “If you debate the facts, you can’t have integrity of markets. You can’t have integrity of elections….This is democracy’s death by a thousand cuts,” said Ressa. 

Subscribe to the Big Tech podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Play.