PCOO warned vs getting info dissemination training from China, Russia

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Communications Operations Office was warned against sending its employees to China and Russia to undergo seminars and training on information dissemination, as these two countries are known for controlling, even manipulating, media content. 

During the second Senate hearing on the proliferation of fake news on Tuesday, January 30, Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa cautioned PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar that the disinformation is a global phenomenon. She explained the so-called information ecosystem that allows fake news to proliferate in the Philippines.

She also cited the case of “patriotic trolling” – or state-sponsored online hate campaign – to silence and intimidate critics of the administration. This translates to the real world through bloggers writing for traditional media, the veteran journalist said. 

“From there, there’s also the connection to the state. This is PCOO saying that it’s now going to actually partner with Russia. Secretary Andanar and I were in Hong Kong together and he said that he would take the PNA and other agencies and send them to Russia and China for training,” Ressa said.

“I just cautioned [him]. I know he spoke about it already – more power and kudos to everything you’re doing with PNA (Philippine News Agency) to try to upgrade them – but I think falling into this kind of pattern using different disinformation tactics could work against us as a nation,” Ressa said.

The state-run PNA earlier reported that PCOO and the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications would cooperate on the field of state information dissemination, including media training of PCOO staffers in Russia.

The Philippines and Russia, in November 2017, signed 8 bilateral agreements, including a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Mass Communications.

China has been controlling information flow through propaganda messages on traditional media and by blocking access to certain websites.

Russia, on the other hand, has been accused of producing fake social media accounts.

Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and French President Emmanuel Macron have lashed out at Russia and called it spreader of “deceitful propaganda.”

Twitter, earlier in January, found and shuttered an additional 1,062 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, considered a "troll farm" connected to the Russian government. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com