Change possible through social media

Natashya Gutierrez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is the largest Facebook market in the world.

With 93.7% of Filipinos on the Internet owning a Facebook account, Filipinos hold tremendous power in their hands to bring about change, veteran broadcast journalist Maria Ressa said Saturday.

This power is especially crucial in a country that suffers from weak institutions, weak governance, and a lack of accountability. Ever since the Marcos years that sought to fast-track development, the country has gone through three EDSA revolutions, indicative of widespread dissatisfaction and impatience with incompetent administrations in power.

In recent years, the Philippines has seen the rise of an aggressive middle class, high mobile and Internet penetration rates, and high adoption rates to new technology and social media. These indicate great potential for Filipinos, especially the youth, to come together and push for solutions, Ressa said.

With the Internet in their arsenal, Ressa encouraged the crowd of students gathered at the 6th ICCS Convention on Media Communication, to take advantage of the power they have to change the nation.

About 1,000 students from 70 different schools gathered at the Ateneo de Manila, Saturday, to listen to various speakers from the media industry, including Ressa, former CNN bureau chief and former ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs division chief.

Change in World

Recent events around the world have emphasized the power of the Internet as a tool for profound change.

“The Internet can bring down governments, empower its people, help spread democracy,” Ressa said. “It can help in governance, can help change behavior and can infuse new meaning in political processes.”

She cited the social revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa as an example of how the Internet ignited the political changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya, and credited social media and its instantaneous nature as the means that pushed the speed of the revolutions.

Facebook and Twitter helped spread not just news, she said, but courage and emotions as well, which fast-tracked the process. 

Ressa cited past efforts she led in her previous network—Citizen Patrol in 2005, Iboto Mo Ipatrol Mo in 2007, and Ako Ang Simula in 2009—that highlighted the impact and influence of crowds.

Statistics showed overwhelming participation from Filipinos by the end of the 2010 elections. Engagement rose by 400%, as citizens turned to email, voicemail, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and the Boto Mo Patrol Mo microsite to voice their opinions and disseminate information.

The citizen journalism program used the Internet as a medium to spread empowerment and hope, as well as become a vehicle for debate and engagement.

Move.PH

Inspired by the examples of Internet- and crowd-induced change across the world, Ressa encouraged students to join Move.PH, a new page on Facebook that seeks to redefine journalism by including more citizens in conversations that can bring about meaningful change.

With changing expectations of consumers, she emphasized the need to redefine journalism to include authenticity and facts. It is a space for conversation and a place to harness collective efforts, an experiment to see what the Philippines as a nation can do together.

“This is a time of…real cataclysmic change and you’re living through it,” she said. “The sooner you recognize it and the sooner you take the power that is already in your hands, the more you can accomplish in your lifetime. And the more you can do here and now today.”

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g