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Philippine journalist Maria Ressa is seen at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before posting bail in Manila on February 14, 2019. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Silenced

Jailed journalist says if not for Facebook, ‘I wouldn’t be in this position’

February 26, 2019

Jailed Philippine journalist Maria Ressa accused Facebook of complicity in her arrest after she was charged with “cyber libel” for exposing numerous fake accounts linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Ressa, the founder of upstart news organization Rappler, faced threats and legal action from Duterte and his supporters after publishing an article about how 26 fake Facebook accounts were used to spread false information to more than 3 million users. The fake accounts, run by a network of Duterte supporters, encouraged people to perpetrate violence against alleged drug users, as well as activists and journalists who opposed Duterte’s tactics. Ressa has said she sought to minimize the risk of retaliation against her by asking Facebook to deal with the fake accounts themselves.

“I gave the data to Facebook because I was hoping they would fix it,” said Ressa, who is currently on bail awaiting arraignment for cyber-libel charges. “If Facebook had taken action in 2016, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Since publishing her story, Ressa has been bombarded with threats — at one point, she said, she was receiving an average of 90 hate messages per hour on Facebook. But when she again asked the company to take action, she was told she would have to formally report the messages one by one, a functionally impossible request given the number of messages she had received.

In a statement, representatives for Facebook said that “keeping our community, especially those who are at risk, safe is our top priority,” and claimed that the company would have acted on the fake accounts earlier, but that Ressa hadn’t sent them to the proper internet addresses.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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