Maria Ressa: Let’s band together to stop the spread of fake news

Justin K. Vestil

A VETERAN journalist and top official of a news website urged journalists to band together to combat disinformation and the proliferation of fake news.

Maria Ressa, chief executive officer and president of Rappler, told local journalists that news outlets must collaborate and go beyond competition, or face the risk of losing relevance due to the growing threats brought about by systemized disinformation and the rise of fake news.

Ressa was one of the speakers of a four-day journalism seminar organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in Cebu City yesterday.

“The individual battles that we truly fight in competition needs to drop and they need to drop because the entire industry is under attack from many different places,” Ressa said.

Ressa, who has been a journalist for 25 years, said that her news outlet has been the subject of numerous attacks since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte because of their special reports on exposing the use of social media as a tool for propaganda and fake news.

Ressa said that through new technologies, one can garner reactions by creating “bots” or programs that automatically gives a response to social media posts or by creating fake accounts.

Because of social media, the traditional role of the news media as “gatekeepers” no longer apply, said Ressa.

Other challenges that traditional news media are facing nowadays include the protection for journalists against online threats and intimidation, violent reactions on reports that are contrary to propaganda machinery, and funding for relevant investigative reports on fake news reports and propaganda at a time when many news groups’ models are crumbling.

Ressa, however, believes that news media is not losing relevance, just yet.

Aside from collaboration, Ressa urged news media to call out propaganda and fake news through reports that give meaning.

She also challenged journalists to embrace technology, particularly social media, which has become a battleground between informative journalism and fake news.