The truth can never be silenced, online and off
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines deplores the blocking by Facebook of the account of our former chairperson, respected journalist and blogger Inday Espina-Varona, at the behest of what are clearly enemies of the right to free expression and of a free press.
According to her note seeking assistance from friends and colleagues, her account was blocked ironically after “I wrote Facebook executives and their marketing arm in the country to ask why so many complaints about online abuse, including outright threats — had that experience two weeks ago — were being dismissed by Facebook, while the victims themselves find themselves penalized by blocks.”
According to the message Facebook sent to Inday, her account was suspended after “someone asked us to review your profile because it might not be following our community standards” and informed her that her account would be suspended until at least December 4 as they carried out the review.
It is not the first time this has happened to Inday and to other journalists and netizens, who have had their accounts suspended after hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of users reported them to Facebook for supposed offenses.
In most cases, the “offenses” were posts critical of the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, of President Rodrigo Duterte for having ordered it, and assertions that Marcos is not a hero.
Inday said she does not wish to speculate on who may have been behind her blocking. Neither will we. But we do believe the circumstances hint very strongly at who.
But what we will assert is that Inday has never violated any professional and ethical standards as a journalist and blogger and can attest that she, in fact, is among the most tolerant when it comes to conflicting thought and opinion on her social media accounts, although she does not tolerate outright abuse such as threats, personal insults and hate speech.
As Inday herself notes: “It’s the height of irony when, even those of opposite political persuasion, acknowledge my patience on line and liberal treatment of all comers, save for genuine trolls and people who attack others personally on my wall.”|
We are aware that Facebook has a Philippines operation. We are sure their office here is aware of the current situation and the loud, even strident, debates going on within our body politic.
We thus urge them to be more circumspect and engaged in determining whether an account is or is not liable for violating their community standards instead of relying solely on mindless algorithms to separate the chaff from the grain. To allow the silencing of reasonable voices again and again does not reflect well on their company’s avowed aims.
We recognize that Facebook and other social media platforms have been a boon to free expression in that it has allowed many who once were silent to have a voice. Unfortunately, weaknesses in these tools for free expression have also been prone to abuse by those who, realizing they really have no valid arguments to make, would seek to silence everyone else.
To them we say good luck. Marcos tried but failed to do so. Neither will you succeed.