The Grey Chronicles

2017.May.2

The Elusive Truth for Adrienne

Adrienne Arsenault CBC News article
‘Democracy as we know it is dead’: Filipino journalists fight fake news [14]

Adrienne Arsenault, CBC News Senior Correspondent, wrote a 45-paragraph article entitled: “’Democracy as we know it is dead’: Filipino journalists fight fake news” [1] Ms. Arsenault apparently wanted to understand fake news in Philippine context.

An Executive Summary

● Introduction [7 paragraphs]

The Philippines is fighting fake news amidst unique challenges. Adrienne cited examples: charges of drug arrest and bribery for Trillanes; and drug trafficking son, pole dancing in Germany, ouster, and suicide attempt for de Lima. “Fact-checking in the Philippines … [is] complicated.”

● The cost of fact-checking [10 paragraphs]

Philippines’ mobile internet is “slowest and most expensive in Asia”; meanwhile free Facebook is offered for some. “Filipinos love Facebook” and Facebook Messenger. “Political operatives in the Philippines take full advantage of this.” De Lima staffers “collected fake news about her from various Facebook timelines over the past few months.” Filipinos seemingly believe the headline. Filipinos “[f]orget nuance, forget context.”

● ‘Propaganda networks’ [12 paragraphs]

Maria Ressa and Rappler’s research team investigated fake news, trolls (bogus accounts) and online attacks from “propaganda networks” particularly Duterte’s supporters before the 2016 elections and thereafter. The research’s initial conclusion: “Democracy as we know it is dead”, and it morphed into “to silence opposition”, such as de Lima, including Ressa, as well as attacks to traditional media. Rappler employed reality checks to counter fake news through Facebook Messenger.

● ‘Do your research’ [16 paragraphs]

Ressa revealed three pro-Duterte propaganda key accounts, with millions of followers, and specifically picked on Mocha Uson, who “shares scathing stories about Duterte’s critics, including Senator de Lima” to nearly five million social media followers.

“To label de Lima the number one drug lord of the Philippines is an inflammatory, unproven claim,” Arsenault wrote. Uson chided the former to “do your research”. As it turned out, the CBC-Mocha Uson interview was recorded by Uson’s manager, posted it on her website, wherein CBC received much flack from Uson’s followers. “To criticize Duterte … can invite trouble. Meanwhile, the truth remains elusive,” Adrienne concluded.

●● Analyses:

Although premised on the Fake News phenomena in the Philippines, Adrienne’s article turned into a clarion call and virtually took the cross for de Lima (a quarter of the article) and Trillanes by using them as examples. Similar references were then reinserted in the other three sections. Immediately below the title was a 620px by 349px photo by Noel Celis/AFP during Leila De Lima’s arrest for drug-related charges last February 2017 [01], but the photo caption did not mention that. Instead, it conveniently described as “… a former human rights commissioner who is one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most vocal opponents, is the subject of a torrent of dubious news reports online.”

About 30% of Adrienne’s article also focused on a sub-story: Ressa and Rappler’s research. Even the title of Adrienne’s article is a dead giveaway: a quote taken from Maria Ressa’s. What Adrienne, however, failed to research and disclose that:

1) Rappler is a Property Investment and Development company, masquerading as an online news blog, funded through Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) by foreign oligarchs, such as Omidyar Network. [02]

2) On 26 August 2016, Maria Ressa called on Twitter “#NoPlaceForHate Let’s take back the internet,” [03] which was ironically followed by deliberate deletion of comments and “intenseful” blockade of Facebook accounts critical to Rappler’s Facebook page and articles. [04] It should be noted that five years ago, as early as 13 July 2011, Rebecca MacKinnon [05] proposed “Let’s take back the Internet!” at TED Talk, followed three years later by Edward Snowden [06] on how to take it back by echoing Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s call for a Magna Carta.

3) Rappler’s investigative research comprised of three parts:

The first installment: “Weaponizing the Internet” [07] postulated that “propaganda techniques helped shift public opinion on key issues,” (which made people Angry). It also apparently denounced “social media (disinformation) campaigns meant to shape public opinion, tear down reputations, and cripple traditional media institutions.” Although acknowledging that “[s]ocial media by itself can be empowering for the disadvantaged and those without access to mainstream media;” it effectively denied that “this new phenomenon triggered by technology and information’s exponential growth” is viable enough when used appropriately, even in politics.

The second: “How Facebook algorithms impact democracy” [08] stated “Facebook algorithms decide what you see [a]nd don’t distinguish fact from fiction,” then took Mocha Uson as an example (which made people Annoyed but Angry). Two weeks thereafter, it resulted to Paul Quilét’s Anti-Mocha Uson petition at change.org to suspend Uson’s Facebook page, and caused a debate.

The third and last: “Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media,” [09] suggested that these fake accounts “share common practices, forming a nest that spreads and repeats lies and propaganda.” (which made MORE people Angry). This article revealed five Facebook accounts and labeled these as fake. Although these fake accounts were not identified as Duterte supporters, the bulk of the article’s narrative was implied as these were connected to either Duterte or Bongbong Marcos.
This Rappler’s research mainly focused on the online networks of Duterte supporters, which Ressa thinks are being used to silence dissent even today. What the 3-part series lacked was a similar perspective on other presidentiables’ social media network. Social media, including Facebook, offered incredible reports of their existence, conspicuous actions, subtle hits and objective evidences, but all these were seemingly swept under the rag, or conveniently labeled as “manufactured noise” except for a singular mention in the third part of that research [09], particularly: “other camps [are] doing counter propaganda [and] they could be at play even today” (09 October 2016), Duterte supporters claimed. But, Rappler research did not even attempt to pursue the claim.

Thus, apparently, the fast-reader Adrienne only surfed through the Rappler’s research then took Ressa’s statements, hook, line, and sinker.

Unfortunately, Adrienne’s article is probably the source of the fake news about Maria Ressa’s 90 an hour, which juxtaposed two separate utterances taken out of context, to wit: “They are threatened with death, with rape. You name it, it’s happened.” Then followed with “An average of 90 hate messages an hour,” Ressa said. “That’s what I dealt with for a month.” (see snapshot)

The last part of Adrienne’s article: ‘Do your research’ which mentioned Mocha Uson, more than once, was most probably written for balance, else the writer’s slant would have been too obvious? For balance, Adrienne could have also delved into Rigoberto Tiglao’s “rapping Rappler” series,[10][11] which culminated after five months wherein Rappler conveniently, as expected, labeled Tiglao’s as fake news.[12] Yet, Rappler’s anonymous reply was sophomoric, if not utterly useless. [13] Research is also a tool to augment a journalistic piece, for this matter, a statement of claim.

Incidentally, searching Adrienne’s article on Facebook, top results lead to only four online, yet off-Facebook, sites: Interspace Reporter, Buzz Gawker, Grejeen News Canada and CBC News. Surprisingly, Adrienne’s article is not even published in the Facebook Page of CBC News @cbcnews? Furthermore, clicking the http://www.cbc.ca/1.3050502 –> http://www.cbc.ca/adrienne-arsenault-1.3050502, however, leads to an Error 404: Page Not Found.

●● Summary:

In sum, Adrienne’s article is 30% about the Internet, Facebook and Fake News; 30% about Ressa and Rappler; 20% about De Lima (including a two-sentence mention of Trillanes); and 20% on Mocha Uson. Arsenault mostly re-echoed Rappler Ressa’s repeated call to take back the Internet, as well as the ever-growing bias against Duterte and his supporters, and the persistence of subjugating Filipinos’ popular will to what traditional media wanted them to believe, short of conditioning public opinion. As Adrienne is partial to Rappler, maybe she will then heed Ressa’s call: “Regardless of your political leaning, social media is a powerful tool, and if abused, the first casualty is the truth,” or in Adrienne’s case, truth will remain elusive, because of her inexcusable lack of research and discernment.

#ParaSaInangBayan #ForTheMotherland @MOCHA USON BLOG

Notes:

[01] Torres-Tupas, Tetch (23 February 2017). “Muntinlupa court orders arrest of De Lima.” Manila:Inquirer.net, 2017. back to text.

[02] Balea, Judith ( 04 November 2015). “Rappler locks in funding from Omidyar Network.” Singapore:TechinAsia, 2015. back to text.

[03] Rappler.com (26 August 2016). “#NoPlaceForHate: Change comes to Rappler’s comments thread.” Manila:Rappler Philippines, 2016. back to text.

[04] Contreras, Antonio P. (02 February 2017). “Rappler’s ‘intenseful’ rapping” Manila:The Manila Times, 2017. back to text.

[05] MacKinnon, Rebecca (13 July 2011). “Let’s take back the Internet!” TEDGlobal, 2011. back to text.

[06] Snowden, Edward (18 March 2014). “Here’s how we take back the Internet.” TED Talk, 2014. back to text.

[07] Ressa, Maria A. (03 October 2016). “Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet.” Manila:Rappler Philippines, 2016. back to text.

[08] Ressa, Maria A. (08 October 2016). “How Facebook algorithms impact democracy.” Manila:Rappler Philippines, 2016. back to text.

[09] Hofileña, Chay F. (09 October 2016). “Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media.” Manila:Rappler Philippines, 2016. back to text.

[10] Tiglao, Rigoberto (26 October 2016). “Why does Maria hate Mocha?” Manila:The Manila Times, 2016. back to text.

[11] Tiglao, Rigoberto (28 October 2016). “Media firm Rappler scorns Constitution by getting foreign money”. Manila:Blog, 2016. back to text.

[12] Rappler.com (20 March 2017). “Tiglao’s fake news.” Manila:Rappler Philippines, 2017. back to text.

[13] Tiglao, Rigoberto (28 October 2016). “Rappler insists on its ‘7,080-killed’ fake news; resorts to ad hominem arguments” Manila::The Manila Times, 2016. back to text.

[14] Arsenault, Adrienne (27 April 2017). “’Democracy as we know it is dead’: Filipino journalists fight fake news.” Manila.:CBC News, 2017. back to text.

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