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MANILA, Philippines – "Facebook is not the internet," said 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan in an interview with Rappler on Monday, August 19.
According to Brennan, the Philippine context is an environment where disinformation, "fake news," and troll armies thrive because of Filipinos' dependence on the social media platform.
"Here it's mostly based around Facebook because that's the cheaper thing. Filipinos, most of them are not accessing what I would call 'the real internet.' They're only accessing Facebook because of load, all the promos. Facebook is supporting that – Facebook and Globe have a deal. Facebook has deals with lots of countries to offer its services so it's definitely different here because everything is on Facebook," he said.
According to a recent report by We Are Social and Hootsuite, Filipinos spend the most time online and on social media around the world. Of 76 million social media users in the Philippines, 75 million are on Facebook.
Net neutrality, which means that telecommunications companies and internet service providers will not privilege sites and platforms over others, is crucial, said Brennan. In the case of the Philippines, telco promos that provide some platforms for free or at a cheaper rate violate that. (READ: Net neutrality and why you should care about it)
"What is really needed is net neutrality. here it seems like it's legal for a internet service provider to make a certain website cheaper to access. That wouldn't be legal in my country. The first time I saw that was here."
Brennan said having priority access to Facebook is limiting Filipinos' access to information outside of the platform. (READ: Do we want a neutral or sponsored internet?)
"Facebook is kind of a walled garden. Outside of Facebook there's a real internet of other sites: Google, Youtube. You can load your Globe and get those sites also but I know that majority of Filipinos cannot afford to do that. It's like you're trapped inside Facebook and when you're using the Free Facebook offer, it's like you can't escape Facebook. You see a link to something else, you're inside Facebook and you can't escape outside so... I think that influences how it works here."
Brennan suggests that telecommunications companies and Facebook should also allow users to access sources, especially legitimate news sources, and follow links outside of the platform for free.
"They should allow Filipinos first of all to access outside of Facebook, to see the actual content, to be able to follow links outside. That would be a big first step instead of having to trust an image macro of an article or an image with text on it. It would be good if people could see the actual site."
"Facebook definitely needs to amplify legitimate news sources and not just individual users making images. Right now, they're amplifying individual users who are making screenshots and maybe those are not totally legitimate. It's easy to fake any of that." – Rappler.com