The death of democracy is happening right before our eyes. But many of us just go on with our daily lives. Pretending nothing is happening.
This is how democracy dies. Death by a thousand cuts. I live in a country which you might consider ground zero of the death of democracy. Where an award-winning journalist and Time Person of the Year has just been convicted over cyber libel charges. Because of a typo.
Facebook is not your friend
Ground zero because Filipinos are among the most avid users of Facebook. Ground zero because this country is the testing ground for weaponizing social media and creating an army of online trolls.
Facebook is a cancer. And yet so many of us still like it so much. Spending so much time on this platform of choice of authoritarians. Posting. Liking. Sharing. Commenting. Scrolling and scrolling, while democracy dies.
Facebook is free, but what’s the price we pay?
“If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold,” Andrew Lewis said.
And Facebook has been selling us time and time again. Does it care that it’s playing a huge role in destroying democracy and press freedom? In manipulating elections? In spreading fear and hate? No. That’s why authoritarians like it. Because Facebook knows so many of us intimately, and it has no problem selling us out.
Maria, Duterte, and Facebook
Facebook is very much a part of the saga of Maria Ressa and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. For the past years, Facebook has allowed a disinformation network of paid trolls to thrive on its platform. Ressa’s online news site Rappler has reported on this disinformation network, as Sheila Coronel recounts for The Atlantic.
Rappler has been a pebble in Duterte’s shoe since his election. It has a small staff—some two dozen young reporters and researchers—but has consistently punched above its weight. It has reported on Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has claimed the lives of thousands of small-time drug peddlers and on the havoc wrought in online spaces by a government-funded disinformation army.
Duterte has often railed against journalists—one of several reasons he is often compared to Donald Trump—but has reserved special ire for Rappler. He has banned the news organization from the presidential palace, and troll armies have been unleashed to harass the site’s staff on Facebook.
And yet these troll armies continue to run rampant on Facebook. And Facebook doesn’t lift a finger.
I deactivated my Facebook profile and Instagram account last week. And on June 2o, we will take down the Facebook page and Instagram account of Digital Life Asia.
Instead, you can follow us on our MeWe page.
“MeWe is built on trust, control and love for social media users worldwide. The inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is a MeWe Advisor. Join MeWe and let the world know your data is #Not4Sale to advertisers or marketers.”
Also, if you would like to help Rappler continue its journalism, consider supporting Rappler’s crowdfunding. You may also join Rappler+, a community that offers a safe space for conversations and collaboration.
Yes, we are witnessing the death of democracy. But let’s keep fighting the good fight.