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PCOO protests Facebook partnership with Rappler, Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) expressed its opposition to Facebook's tie-up with Rappler and Vera Files for fact-checking news.

"We would also like to register our protest at the choice of fact-checkers by Facebook," said the PCOO in a statement on Monday, April 16.

PCOO officials will raise their concerns with the social media platform during a meeting.

"This will be on the agenda when we finally get to sit with them soon," said the PCOO.

Malacañang, meanwhile, did not protest outright, but said it understands sentiments of President Rodrigo Duterte's supporters who slammed Facebook's decision.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, during a Monday press conference, said, "I commiserate with those who object to the selection of Rappler and Vera Files because they know, we know where they stand in the political spectrum."

He claimed that Rappler and Vera Files are "sometimes partisan themselves."

The President's mouthpiece also called on Facebook users who don't like the partnership to relay their concerns to the social media company.

"The users of Facebook should make known their wishes to Facebook itself, that there should be a more [im]partial arbiter of the truth," Roque said.

He added that Facebook users will always have the freedom to shift to a new platform. Duterte supporters online have called on fellow supporters to abandon Facebook and shift to the "Russian Facebook," VKontakte or VK. 

American extremist groups, neo-Nazis, and the alt-right have also shifted to VK because of its loose enforcement when it comes to hate speech, according to a report by The Atlantic. (READ: If there's no fake news, we wouldn't know what's true – Roque)

But while the PCOO and Malacañang oppose the tie-up with Rappler and Vera Files, it lauded Facebook's efforts to fight fake news.

"We give our all-out support to them in their efforts to combat the creation and spread of false news that have poisoned our shared space and dumbed down, if not encouraged, vicious discourse in our online community," said the PCOO.

Certified fact-checkers

While Duterte himself has called Rappler "fake news" and his online supporters persistently claim the news outlet is biased, Rappler and Vera Files have been certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. (READ: Rappler now a member of the International Fact-Checking Network)

In their partnership with Facebook, Rappler and Vera Files will review articles shared on Facebook, check their facts, and rate their accuracy.

The flagged articles will be placed lower in the News Feed and will be less visible.

People who will try to share a fake story will receive a notification that it has been determined by a fact checker to be false. (WATCH: 6 ways to spot a fake news article)

Fact checkers will also write stories providing context and debunking the false claims, which will appear below the original post with the label "Related Articles."

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV lauded the fact-checking program, saying it shows Facebook's effort to stop the proliferation of false news.

Some PCOO officials themselves have been accused of spreading false or misleading information. (READ: Mocha Uson: Fake news victim or fake news peddler?) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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