Nobel winner Maria Ressa demands laws to fix Facebook's 'bias against facts'

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa called for technology companies to face greater regulation globally to curb disinformation on social media, as she criticised Facebook for being “biased against facts”.

“This is like an atom bomb exploded in our information ecosystem because we can’t tell facts from fiction,” Ms Ressa said, in a pre-taped interview for Bloomberg Live’s Equality Summit.

“How do we put the genie back in the bottle? I think legislation, that’s first.”

Ms Ressa cited Britain’s Online Safety Bill as an example of regulation that makes technology companies more accountable, but cautioned that passing such laws can take years.

Facebook has recently faced fresh scrutiny in the United States after a whistle-blower alleged the company downplayed its platforms’ risks to the public.

American lawmakers are considering laws to strengthen privacy rules for Internet companies and protections for children online.

Ms Ressa also called on Facebook to tweak its newsfeed to highlight credible sources in the Philippines in time for the May 2022 presidential elections.

“We will not have integrity of elections without integrity of facts,” she said. “Our democracy is at stake.”

The Philippine journalist and Russian editor Dmitry Muratov shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression”.

The co-founder and chief executive of digital media company Rappler was cited for her reporting on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war that has killed thousands, as well as for documenting the spread of fake news through social media.

Ms Ressa, who was included in Bloomberg’s 50 Most Influential ranking last year, has been in Mr Duterte’s cross hairs for years and was once branded a “fraud” by the President.

She is currently appealing a conviction for cyber libel, while also facing tax cases.

Mr Duterte’s spokesman has said Ms Ressa’s Nobel prize proves that press freedom is alive in the Philippines. The South-east Asian nation ranked 138 out of 180 nations and territories this year in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, down two notches from its 2020 ranking.

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