GlobalFact 11: ‘Now is the time to do something’ – Ressa tells tech giants

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NOBEL laureate and journalist, Maria Ressa, has called on tech giants, some of whom are also sponsors of the GlobalFact 11, to protect democracy while preventing the spread of misinformation.

She made the call on June 26, 2024 while giving a keynote address at the annual global gathering of fact-checkers tagged: GlobalFact 11 conference held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over 500 fact-checkers, misinformation researchers, academics, media-tech platforms, and other stakeholders are attending the conference hosted by the International Fact-Checking Network and Zašto ne.

In addition to Meta and TikTok, Google and YouTube were also sponsor of the event.

READ: Fact-checking essential to free speech, not censorship – IFCN

In her keynote address with AFP Global News Director, Phil Chetwynd, Ressa discussed the crucial role of fact-checkers in safeguarding the truth, especially in an era where those spreading misinformation are rewarded, and the line between falsehoods and facts in the information ecosystems is blurred.

She told fact-checkers that despite people downplaying the impact of fact-checks, “facts are the only anchor in our shared reality.”

Ressa stated that tech platforms have the capability to improve the situation, referencing small steps Facebook took in 2020, like prioritizing factual news in the ecosystem.

She also mentioned stopping mass invitations to Facebook groups and requiring new members to be approved by an administrator.

She noted that removing this measure contributed to the growth of “Stop the Steal” movement, which falsely claimed that Donald Trump won the 2020 election while also highlighting YouTube and TikTok’s influence on the information ecosystem.

“YouTube was fantastic on Ukraine, right? They pivoted very quickly and took down the lies,” she said. “Are they as good on Gaza?”

Ressa highlighted how tech companies have become highly skilled at personalization, allowing each person to have their own “personalized reality.” This aligns with individuals’ belief systems and cognitive biases, making it harder to access factual information.

“You know, a world where all of us have our own personalized reality in this room? This room would be called an insane asylum,  without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without these three, we have no shared reality. You can’t begin to solve any problem. We cannot have journalism or democracy, or solve, oh yeah that big thing that we’re all facing, climate change. It’s existential,” she said.

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She reassured fact-checkers facing harassment that they are not alone and emphasized that during times of fear, “collaboration becomes essential.”

“We’re not punching bags. Please, no learned helplessness; understand that as the tech companies are redoing, rebuilding the world, we can too,” she added.

Near the end of her keynote, Ressa reiterated three big points from a 2022 10-point action plan for addressing the information crisis, which she co-presented with fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dmitry Muratov: stop surveillance-for-profit, stop coded bias, and rebuild journalism as an antidote to tyranny.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected]

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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