Social Media Jeopardizes Elections, Maria Ressa Says

It amplifies lies over facts, she says.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa attends the news conference with the Peace Prize winners on the day before the award ceremony, at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, December 9, 2021. NTB/Torstein Boe via Reuters
Photo/s: NTB/Torstein Boe via Reuters

OSLO -- Elections worldwide cannot be conducted with integrity as long as social media platforms amplify lies over facts, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said on Thursday, a day before she will collect the award jointly with Russia's Dmitry Muratov.

The journalists won the award for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression at a time when free, independent and fact-based journalism is under fire, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said when announcing the prize in October.

Ressa is from the Philippines, which votes in May to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It is going to be impossible to have integrity of elections if you don't have integrity of facts and right now that is the case," Ressa, told a news conference, referring to elections both in the Philippines and elsewhere.

"Because by design the social media platforms, which deliver the news, are ... amplifying and delivering to your newsfeeds lies over facts."

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Ressa, a co-founder of news site Rappler, has grown prominent through investigative reporting, including into large scale killings during a police campaign against drugs.

Her co-laureate, Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, said authoritarian leaders undermined democratic institutions at the peril of peace.

"Lack of belief in democracy means that, with time, people turn their backs on democracy, you will get a dictator, and dictatorship leads to war," Muratov told the news conference.

Ressa and Muratov are the first journalists to receive the prize since Germany's Carl von Ossietzky won the 1935 award for revealing his country's secret post-war rearmament program.

Both hoped the prize will bolster a new generation to fight against lies and propaganda and to make it safer for existing ones.

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"I hope (the prize) will make it safer for journalists," said Ressa. "The only weapon is to shine the light and keep doing our jobs."

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