Still, Facebook maintains that an aspect of the problem in the Philippines is simply that the country has come online fast and hasn’t yet learned the emergent rules of the internet. In October the company offered a “Think Before You Share” workshop for Filipino students, which focused on teaching them “digital literacy” skills, including critical thinking, empowerment, kindness, and empathy.
Nyst says this amounts to “suggesting that digital literacy should also encapsulate the ability to distinguish between state-sponsored harassment and fake news and genuine content.” The company, she says, “is taking the position that it is individuals who are at fault for being manipulated by the content that appears on Facebook’s platform.”
In Europe, that isn’t good enough: The U.K., Germany, and France have threatened fines and increased regulation if the company doesn’t take more steps to prevent fake news and extremist propaganda. Ten days before the French elections in April, Facebook announced it would suspend 30,000 fake accounts. Ressa wondered why the company was willing to act in France but in the Philippines said people needed to bone up on online etiquette. “We are going through much worse than any of the Western nations, and our institutions are far weaker,” she says. “It made me really realize that I needed to speak up.”
If you have money to spend with Facebook, they’ll help you get the biggest bang for your buck.