Duterte supporters eye exodus to new social media platform

Published April 15, 2018, 11:18 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Supporters of President Duterte are shifting to Russian-based social media platform VKontakte, more popularly known as VK, after Facebook announced its third-party fact-checking program.

VK logo (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)
VK logo (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

Facebook announced this week that it has picked online news agencies Rappler and Vera Files for a third-party fact-checking program in the Philippines to prevent false information from spreading on the social media platform.

Both online news agencies were certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network and will review news stories on Facebook, check their facts, and rate their accuracy.

“Partnering with third-party fact-checking organizations is one of the ways we hope to better identify and reduce the reach of false news that people share on our platform,” Clair Deevy, Facebook Director for Community Affairs for Asia Pacific, said.

“With our shared goal of keeping the online space free from false information, we want to help Filipinos be more discerning of news they read online, and make them aware of the real life consequences of spreading falsehoods,” she added.

The program is in line with a three-part framework to improve the quality and authenticity of stories in people’s news feeds.

However, this was not taken well by Duterte’s supporters, more commonly known as the DDS. The DDS has been critical of Rappler, saying the online news agency has been posting fake news about the President. Rappler is also faced with controversy over its supposed foreign ownership.

Paula Defensor-Knack, sister of the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, urged Duterte supporters to create VK accounts and urged them to deactivate their accounts in Facebook to get “uncensored truths.”

She said that among Duterte support groups that migrated to VK include the Pres. Rody Duterte International, Paula Defensor Philippine Group, Pres. Rody Duterte Facebook Army, Duterte Kami ang Media Mo, Die-Hard Fans of Miriam Defensor Santiago, Paula Defensor and Friends, and Paula Defensor Philippine News and Global Supporters.

“Do not let Yellows censor or fact-check you. Let’s leave them to talk to themselves and get votes,” Knack said, referring to those critical of the President.

“We will tell the world what is truth in another platform–this time, in Europe!” she added.

Musician and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) executive Jimmy Bondoc also threatened to leave Facebook and to start a petition to delete Facebook if the initiative pushes through. In a Facebook post, which is now deleted but not before screenshots were shared online, he said that his campaign will be widely supported.

Senator Bam Aquino, meanwhile, lauded Facebook for partnering with the two online news agencies, saying that Facebook showed its efforts to stop the proliferation of fake news.

“We’re glad Facebook has decided to enter into a local fact-checking coalition in the aftermath of its failure to protect millions of personal data from being exposed,” Aquino said.

“With disinformation spreading like wildfire through social media, it’s encouraging to see Facebook take a stronger stance on this issue and partner with agencies that are genuinely fighting fake news,” he added.

Recently, Facebook has been under fire for the breach of the data of 87 million of its users. The data, collected by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica starting 2014, was used to influence voter opinion during the 2016 United States election.

Facebook has apologized with founder Mark Zuckerberg admitting to Congress that it was his personal mistake that he did not do enough to prevent the social media platform from being used for harm.

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” he said.

The Philippines National Privacy Commission has ordered Facebook to furnish information on how it processed and shared with third parties the personal data of 1.18 million Filipinos who may have been affected by the data breach.

Malacañang, on the other hand, denied its dealings with the political consulting firm following reports that suspended Cambridge Analytica chief executive officer Alexander Nix met in 2015 with Jose Gabriel La Viña and Peter Tiu Laviña, who played important roles in Duterte’s campaign particularly in the social media aspect.

President Duterte also denied links to Cambridge Analytica following reports that its parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, helped him in his presidential campaign. Malacañang earlier urged the public to respect Duterte’s fair victory during the previous elections.