Roque to meet with Facebook on its 'unacceptable' fact-checking partners

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he will meet with Facebook executives about the social media giant's partnership with Rappler and Vera Files to combat the spread of fake news.

Roque on Thursday said he will attend two meetings next week with Facebook to address the "unacceptable" partnership with local online website Rappler and non-profit investigative news site Vera Files.

"It is unacceptable that the fact-checkers contracted by Facebook are so anti-administration," he said in a media briefing.

Facebook on April 12 partnered with Rappler and Vera Files to identify and block sites promoting false information.

The two news agencies are identified as critical of the Duterte administration. Vera Files has a fact-checking series that monitors and points out contradictions in the President's speeches and claims. Malacañang has a strained relationship with Rappler, as it barred its correspondent Pia Ranada from covering events in the Palace in the wake of a regulatory case against the news website over an alleged anti-dummy law violation.

Roque said the partnership might lead to the unfair flagging of pro-administration articles.

"That would mean anything pro-administration would be suspect as fake news," Roque said.

Both Rappler and Vera Files are accredited by the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), a unit of journalism school Poynter Institute.

Vera Files President Ellen Tordesillas pointed out in a statement, "One of the requirements for an IFCN accreditation is non-partisanship and fairness."

Rappler, in a statement Monday, said it accepted the responsibility of fact-checking because it has seen "how lies have ripped us apart as a society, fomenting hate and anger."

It said the process was "meant to encourage free speech that does not harm and does not invent" because "power groups are using 'free speech' on Facebook to stifle free speech, as shown in various cases here and in neighboring countries."

Roque earlier advised Facebook users to voice out their qualms about the partnership.

With the alarming spread of misinformation, a Senate panel has been looking into the spread of fake news in the country. Senator Grace Poe has filed a bill, Senate Bill 1680, which seeks to penalize public officials for peddling fake news. Senator Joel Villanueva also filed Senate Bill 1492 which proposes to sanction false news.