Democracy as we know it is dead
Munich, January 29, 2020. In the debate about the mass distribution of fake news online, the award-winning journalist Maria Ressa criticized Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. “Facebook and other social media platforms enable the rise of authoritarian-populist leaders worldwide,” said Ressa in the podcast of the Bits & Pretzels start-up festival. “Democracy as we know it is dead.”
The long-time CNN correspondent is convinced that the owners of the large US technology companies are still doing too little against the widespread spread of hatred and lies on their platforms. Thanks to technological advances, false information is particularly easy to spread and easy to reinforce. Her conclusion: “Social media allow lies.”
Fake news spread faster than facts online. If a lie is repeated often enough, it will eventually replace the truth, warns the founder of the Philippine website Rappler. The reporter, who included Time Magazine on the “Person of the Year 2018” list for her fight for press freedom, knows what she is talking about. Ressa has been reporting critically on the drug war of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for years. Together with her team, she analyzed large data sets on social media in 2016 and demonstrated how the Philippine government of Duterte purposefully scattered false messages to manipulate public opinion. Her research caused a sensation and made Ressa one of the most famous voices in journalism worldwide.
But with her harsh criticism, she caught the anger of the Philippine government, as Ressa reports in the podcast from Bits & Pretzels. She was arrested several times and spent time in prison. There are currently eight proceedings against the journalist and her platform Rappler. She represents human rights lawyer Amal Clooney in court. For over a month, strangers “bombarded” them with 90 hate emails an hour, reports Ressa. Her health and social environment would have suffered greatly. But the journalists do not want to give in small, but continue to fight. How does she do it? “Accept your fear. It’s one of the lessons I’ve learned, ”she says. “Because the moment you do that, you are prepared.”
The Bits & Pretzels podcast presents weekly discussions with top decision-makers, makers and experts from the international start-up scene. It is part of the new media offering of the founder festival of the same name, which invites 5,000 founders, as well as investors and entrepreneurs, to a three-day conference in Munich every year.
More information at: www.bitsandpretzels.com/podcast
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