Trust problems


Social media giant Facebook (FB) has been embroiled recently in confidence issues that it tried to cure through tapping so-called fact checkers which worsened instead of solving its problem.

The questions raised on FB may have resulted in the recent P120 billion loss for founder Mark Zuckerberg that may spell the future of his company.

In the Philippines, for instance, designating known political tools of the supporters of former President Noynoy Aquino as fact-checkers only increased suspicions on the motivation behind the regulation of posts.

Just recently, FB users complained that their posts and even their accounts were blocked for no apparent reason, except that nearly all are supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Daily Tribune got a sampling of such uncalled for action last Wednesday when FB restricted the sharing of an article titled “De Lima arraigned on drug charges” which was a factual report on the court appearance of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

For two hours or more, Daily Tribune readers can’t share the article on FB.

FB did not give any explanation on the temporary freeze on the sharing of the article, except a generic message saying that it included “content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”

Since FB does have fact-checkers, Daily Tribune editors believe that the story went through them.

Even Malacañang had sought a meeting with FB over its choice of fact checkers Rappler and Vera Files.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said “efforts are under way for both the PCOO and Facebook to sit across the table and discuss and, hopefully, reach agreements.”

She said the aim of the meeting is to strengthen a “shared goal of responsible and intelligent use of social media.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the choice of FB’s “police of the truth” is “sometimes partisan.”

“I commiserate with those who object with the selection of Rappler and Vera files because we know where they stand in the political spectrum,” he said.

The complementary role of the yellow mob and FB was best exemplified in FB’s disclosure last April that data of more than 80 million FB users, 1.2 million of whom were Filipinos, were compromised and used for the US elections by UK-based political strategist Cambridge Analytica.

Raissa Robles, a known anti-Duterte blogger who also writes for South China Morning Post (SCMP), used a photograph taken at the National Press Club (NPC) when Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco was president in May 2015 to supposedly prove that Rody used Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 presidential campaigns.

In the photo were Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, Pompee La Viña and Peter Tiu Laviña who were members of the Duterte campaign team and Istratehiya chairman Taipan Millan.

Robles said in her story that Rody’s campaign benefited from the UK political strategist’s service, citing an entry in the Cambridge Analytica website claiming that it helped a Philippine President win an election.

“Facing national elections, the incumbent client was perceived as kind and honorable – qualities his campaign team thought were election-winning. By contrast, SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as ‘tough’ and ‘decisive.’ Using the cross-cutting issue of crime, SCL rebranded the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action,” the entry which has since been taken down.

SCL Group is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Robles in his SCMP fake news definitely pinpointed Rody as the one referred to in the Cambridge Analytica website when no name or date was mentioned. She then tied up the NPC photo with the Cambridge Analytica claim in its website.

It turned out that the NPC photo was taken after a regular weekly forum attended by media in which Nix was a guest. Nix’s topic was about winning an election through modern technology in which political hands such as the two Laviñas attended.

Later on Robles’ story was proven as fake news as the services of Cambridge Analytica was found to have been employed during the 2010 elections that benefited Noynoy.

It was Butch Abad, Noynoy’s campaign manager then who later became Noynoy’s budget secretary, who tapped the UK firm.

The parent company of Cambridge Analytica, SCL Elections, mentioned that in 2010 it “successfully won the election for their candidate.”

Despite the fake news extensively blasted on FB and other platforms by her supporters and the yellow mob, no action was taken on her account since the fact-checkers apparently share Robles’ political persuasion.

FB has a deep integrity problem which it can address by starting with a review of its fact checking scheme that worsened rather than improved its image with its Filipino users.

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