The millions of Filipinos who support President Duterte and use social media have spoken and they do not want Facebook to partner with the stridently anti-Duterte Rappler and Vera Files as a so called “fact checker” aka censor over the content that ordinary people create, share and discuss.
This has already led to many users shifting from Facebook to the Russian owned VK, a platform similar to Facebook but one which does not employ censorship methods on users. In many ways, this development is an important soft power victory for Russia as it reveals that in the competition for social media users in The Philippines, the free speech atmosphere of VK has been seen to be preferable to the overly tyrannical atmosphere on Facebook. If anything, VK should use this opportunity to promote its platform more widely among Filipino users hungry for more options.
That being said, Facebook should not be allowed to employ political organisations like Rappler and Vera Files and not face a backlash from users whose experience will be tarnished and frankly ruined by the presence of Rappler and Vera Files at the controls of Facebook’s already overzealous censorship machine.
The solution is simple. Facebook’s revenue is generated from advertisements, with the added scandalous element of selling user data to third parties, something that is now being scrutinised for its overly prominent role in Facebook’s business model. But focusing on advertisements, the key is to contact everyone who advertises on Facebook and targets the Filipino audiences. Tell these advertisers to stop spending money on Facebook advertisements until the company backs down from its scandalous relationship with Rappler and Vera Files.
Furthermore, users in The Philippines and overseas Filipinos using Facebook should take screenshots of advertisements that come up on Facebook, and post these in a public place, making it clear that unless these companies join a corporate boycott of Facebook, the companies will themselves be named and shamed by Duterte supporters as those giving money to an organisation partnering to Rappler and Vera Files in order to shut down free speech for regular users.
By targeting the revenue stream of Facebook through its advertisers at a time when governments around the world are scrutinising the company for selling users data to third parties, there is a chance that if the campaign gains momentum, Facebook will cease partnering with Rappler and Vera Files and return to a more commonsense approach to running a major social media outlet, just as VK continues to take this commonsense approach.
This is the method – now it’s time to contact the advertisers and if that doesn’t work, name them and shame them.