(Welcome Message delivered at the ‘Civil Society Conversations on Democracy and Disinformation’ at the Ateneo de Davao University’s Finster Auditorium on 23 August 2019 by Jeremy S. Eliab, ADDU Executive Vice President)
Our dear communication students and faculty of Ateneo de Davao University and from other colleges and universities of the region, friends and practitioners from various media agencies in Davao City, good morning.
We are gathered today to discuss about issues that, in the world of scholarship and philosophy, are closest to our hearts: the love for truth. And this love for truth is best expressed in a conversation between friends of truth. And we are all friends of truth here.
During this time when the intentionally false and inaccurate information that is spread deliberately is challenging this love for truth, we need to exert more effort to find truth and defend it collectively. The act of deception and false statements to convince the public of untruth is in fact horrifying and they destroy persons, peoples, institutions and the society in general. The deliberately misleading and biased information, the manipulated narrative or facts have the malicious intention to deceive.
Last January 2019, during the World Day of Social Communications Pope Francis warned against the “disinformation” and “targeted distortion of facts” to be found on the internet and social networks’ “manipulation of personal data.”
The internet “is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable,” “However… many experts also highlight the risks that threaten the search for, and sharing of, authentic information on a global scale,” he said. “If the internet represents an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge, it is also true that it has proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts. We need to recognize how social networks, on the one hand, help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another, but on the other, lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights,” he said. On social networks, “we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice,” the pope said.
For this reason, we at the Ateneo de Davao University welcome this rare opportunity to be the host of this Forum on Democracy and Disinformation here in Davao City.
On behalf of Rev. Fr. Joel E. Tabora of the Society of Jesus, the Ateneo de Davao University President, I welcome you all to this conference and workshop. May you have a fruitful participation. And may your participation help us become better, responsible stakeholders of truth and democracy in the region and beyond. Thank you.