An online petition has been created, demanding Facebook and Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to remove Rappler and Vera Files as fact checkers of potential fake news reports in the Philippines. The move comes a day after Facebook announced its partnership with Rappler IQ and VERA Files as third-party fact-checkers.
“We are committed to fighting the spread of false news and misinformation on multiple fronts, employing a variety of tools and tactics… 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’s Director for Community Affairs for APAC said in a statement on Thursday, April 12.
The two groups were verified by International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), a non-partisan fact-checking unit of the Poynter Institute. And as expected, critics of President Rodrigo Duterte lauded Facebook’s action. This includes Liberal Party (LP) Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino III, who is set to run for re-election in the 2019 elections.
However, a petition at Change.org titled “Rappler & Vera Files are not reliable fact-checkers, both are partisan & can’t be trusted,” was created on Friday by The First Philippine Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The name of the petitioner was not mentioned, but netizens suggested it was pro-Duterte blogger Sass Rogando Sasot.
“Rappler and Vera Files are not reliable fact-checkers. They might use this to further their agenda, and to selectively silence those who don’t agree with their agendas. They are biased, and their information cannot be trusted as impartial. Fact checkers should not be partisan.” The petition said, which now has more than 12,600 signatures.
“Rappler and Vera Files, through the actions of Ressa et al, and Tordesillas, respectively, are undoubtedly anti-Duterte partisans. Tordesillas is even known to be friendly with Trillanes. To make Rappler and Vera Files as fact checkers for news content in FB is a pure and unadulterated travesty.” The petition to Facebook added.
Last January, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered the closure of Rappler over its alleged foreign ownership. Rappler, including its CEO Maria Ressa is receiving tons of criticisms for allegedly being bias against the Duterte administration. On the other hand, Vera Files was founded by journalist Ellen Tordesillas in March 2008.
On Monday, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) expressed its strong opposition against Facebook’s partnership with Rappler and Vera Files as fact-checkers. “We would also like to register our protest at the choice of fact-checkers by Facebook. This will be on the agenda when we finally get to sit with them soon,” it said.
For those who want to join the petition, visit Change.org and enter the necessary information, and make sure your signature will be counted.