A day ago, a change.org petition appeared with the title Suspend Mocha Uson Blog Facebook Page meant to press Facebook to take down Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page. The petitioner asserts that Mocha “uses her Facebook page to spread fictitious and false information about pressing issues in the Philippines, from the role the USAID plays in the country to malicious and false news concerning other government officials, eliciting unwarranted hate from the public. The said Facebook page widens the rift between those who support the current administration and those who are critical of it.”
To date, the petition page has garnered over 25,000 signatures.
I am not a fan of Mocha Uson. Neither do I follow any of her social media accounts. I surely disagree with her on so many points. But….I have reasons NOT to sign that petition to take down her Facebook page.
Reason #1: She has a right to speak her mind.
I subscribe to the saying, “I may not agree with you but I will defend your right to say what you think”. We have a right to freedom of expression. It may not always be in good taste for some and can even be a half-truth or downright lie for others. But it is the person’s right to express his thoughts; it is also his responsibility to take the consequences of what he says.
Reason #2: Allowing a site takedown will open a Pandora’s box.
The takedown, if ever, of Mocha’s Facebook page, will open a Pandora’s box. It will set a precedent. In future, anyone who does not agree with what anyone writes can cite this precedent and petition for the site’s takedown.
Reason #3: There are alternative ways to combat false news.
There is room to educate and influence someone who may not always be using social media the right way. In Blog Watch, we expose false or fake news/sites, use counter speech, educate netizens on using social media for good, and call out when needed.
I take the position that Mocha has good intentions but she may need some guidance in using her social media influence properly and responsibly. We hope to reach out to Mocha and share our own experiences on social media with her. We all have room to learn and improve.
Reason #4: We know what it’s like to be victim of an attempt to quell our voice on Facebook.
In late 2013, something went wrong on our Blog Watch Facebook page. We could no longer share articles on our Facebook from our website (blogwatch.ph). Someone had reported our website as “abusive” and “unsafe” and Facebook blocked all links to it.
We checked for malware. We also went through all appeal avenues with Facebook to no avail. Our situation stayed that way for about a year. It took an appeal on our behalf, by a friend who was traveling to the U.S. to meet Facebook, for our page to work normally again.
Reason #5: Propaganda is not limited only to Duterte supporters.
Oh yes…propaganda is not the exclusive domain of President Duterte’s supporters. Half-truths, fake news, fake accounts, trolling, among others, are being used by different factions, colors and parties. Just recently, we called out a fake Twitter account trying to look like the Official Gazette’s verified Twitter account, gov.ph. That account was taken down by Twitter but another (see below) was created and still exists. Obviously, such sites exist to mislead and misinform.
In the end, you and I need to discern and do our own research before we swallow anything hook, line and sinker online.
On this takedown petition, I choose NOT to sign away my right to freedom of expression by being part of suppressing someone else’s.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).