Week 8: Maria Ressa, Facebook, and The Opinion Editorial (or OpEd). Post Due, Mon. Oct. 25

Interesting posts last week, students, on the omnipresence of Fake News and the value of the First Amendment.  Based on your insightful comments, it does seem we need media venues to do their part “protecting and serving” us.  At the same time, it’s also clear that the “Fourth Estate” needs help from a watchful “Fifth Estate,” which is society itself.  We all need to be wary nowadays of what news is “useful, relevant, and factual”.   In other words, journalists and the media entities they work for require informed, critical readers and viewers, just as much as we need them.  The fifth estate then is another “set of eyes” that helps keep our democracy vibrant and vital.

Over the next two weeks, we will be hearing and learning from several courageous journalists and citizens (company insiders) who play thoughtful roles as critics of media, government, and society.

Let’s first focus on Maria Ressa, co-founder of the digital media company Rappler and an outspoken critic of iron-fisted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. It’s important to note that Maria was co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — a really big deal, especially for a female journalist.

Please listen to this interview of her as she explains her aims as a journalist and reveals her thoughts on the global assault on “truth and trust” by leaders such as Duterte, Putin, and Trump and the social media giant Facebook. She ends with some important points about the lack of women in powerful journalism positions today.

I also strongly recommend watching this longer documentary (A Thousand Cuts) on her unrelenting, courageous tactics to stand up to power in her home country.

Speaking out requires courage. Last week, as Melissa points out in her post, the story of the whistle-blower Frances Haugen was splashed across innumerable news outlets. A former, high-ranking Facebook employee Haugen quit her job at the company and explained why at a Congressional hearing.  As she alleges, Facebook’s own research showed that the media giant’s platform “amplified hate, misinformation, and political unrest” but did nothing to combat this fact.

Please watch her interview on 60 minutes.

Are the dangers of Social Media real?  This is one topic of great debate on all sides.  To find out what journalists are thinking, we can turn to the genre of the Opinion Piece, or OpEd.  Your next writing assignment will be to write your own OpEd on a topic important to you, but for this week I ask that you:

  1. Carefully “listen” to the words of Maria Cessa (in her interview and/or documentary)
  2. View the 60 minutes interview with ex-Facebook Employee, Frances Haugen
  3. Read the opposing OpEds: “For Teens, Instagram is a Cesspool” and “The Moral Panic Engulfing Instagram”
  4. Post a response that reflects your thoughts on Maria Ressa or the Facebook Debate.

Mid-term Note

We are now at the mid-point of the semester.  I have provided a mid-term grade based on your posts thus far. I have also graded completed student profiles.  Go to “Check Grade Icon” on the right to check on your standing in this course. Please complete any missing posts and/or your student profile assignment this week.

21 Comments

  1. Jimenez

    Watching the video of Frances Haugen on 60 minutes brought back to memory the interview of Edward Snowden. Of course his work was far greater on the crime he committed, but he did end up shinning a great light on points that now year later Frances Haugen can now speak upon. The Facebook Debate is something that has truly been going on for a while now. Facebook has been facing countless of issues for a large amount of time. I think that Instagram does have a large platform. It’s saddening to hear that this company will happily take on algorithms that bring forth depression, anxiety, and eating disorders upon children and teens. I do believe it can physiologically affect adults as well especially towards the subject of hate. Social media has taken a grasp of a worldly society in general and we will face greater consequences than this in the future.

    • Mark Noonan

      Well stated, Keyri. Your connection of Haugen to Edward Snowden is spot on and your concern about Facebook fully warranted.

  2. Melissa Dos Santos

    The Facebook debate is quite contentious. Are the dangers of Social media real? Absolutely, Facebook is a monopoly with billions of users on their three platforms: Facebook, What’s App, and Instagram. Other questions include: are social media platforms publishers – regulating what is said on the platform is the definition of publishing – or our postmodern day public squares? Censorship sought by Frances Haugen and many in Congress (for example, senators Warren from MA and Blumenthal, CT) to redefine Section 230.

    Facebook is indeed a monolith that enriches itself with user data thereby, controlling political discourse and fueling narcissistic behavior. Social media has a pernicious effect on a segment of the population who need validation through these platforms. When Facebook was founded, it was in no way different in 2004; it was created to measure the attractiveness scale amongst Mark Zuckerberg’s classmates, much like the fashion magazines and runway shows in the 90s and early 2000s. Big Tech, such as Facebook, needs reckoning with antitrust laws not fueled with more power from the federal government.

    • Mark Noonan

      Thanks for reminding us of the vile origins of Facebook that seem to never get any real traction although it ought to. I also like how you phrase this important question: “are social media platforms publishers … or our postmodern day public squares?” A little of both I’d say and that could be the problem. How do you catch a mouse that is also a piece of cheese? While claiming to be intent on working for the betterment of humankind, it’s like you say: merely doing what’s it’s always been doing — attracting as many users as possible by any means necessary. If the anti-trust laws don’t work, perhaps “exposure” and some degree of public awareness can help mitigate its corrosive effects. Excellent, provocative post Melissa.

  3. Anna Lin

    Maria Ressa has brought global attention to the struggle for human rights and press freedom in Philippines. Maria Ressa have been a journalist in Asia for nearly 30 years. Maria has been honored around the world for her courageous and bold work in fighting disinformation, fake news and attempts to silence the free press. Maria work aimed to redefine journalism by combining traditional broadcast, new media and mobile phone technology for social change.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent commentary on the amazing Maria Ressa, Anna!

  4. Rebeca

    Facebook is a very know platform and is used all around the world. Frances Haugen mentioned in her interview on how dangerous facebook can be and provided many facts to support her statement. Something that Frances Haugen mentioned in her interview was that facebook is looking more for growth rather than safety and that statement stuck to me. I never really thought about the idea of how all the advertisements of making facebook safer was false. As a teenage girl, it is scary to think that not even going on social media is safe, hate crimes aren’t stopped nor is body shaming. Facebook would rather get more views and attention even if it is for the wrong reasons instead of actually putting in the effort to stop all this hate. Frances Haugen had also mentioned how the safety precautions were on only throughout the election and once it passed, the safety protocols turned off. This is shocking to hear from an actual employee, seeing and hearing this first hand and having to share this secret of the company even with the fear of what could happen because it was the right thing to do. Facebook should definitely make their platform safer, not only for teenagers but for everyone because even kids now a days use facebook. Especially instagram. Many young adults compare their body to others they see while scrolling and start feeling ashamed of their own body. There had to be a stop to this and even if having to exposed them was the way to do it, it was the right thing to do, not only for ones self but for everyone else across the globe.

    • Mark Noonan

      Very thoughtful commentary Rebeca on the truly pernicious effects of Facebook that do not seem so obvious at first. I wholeheartedly agree with you that more protections (especially for young people) need to be put in place.

  5. Sean Suarez

    During the interview “Nobel Peace Price laureate Maria Ressa: Being a journalist has become ‘more dangerous’, on France 24.com. Maria Ressa is charged with multiple crimes such as fraud, tax evasion and receiving money from the CIA. She is a Filipino journalist, who has uncovered government corruption and is seen as a thorn in the Philipine President Duterte’s side. She explains the dangers and the challenges she faces; she also explains how it came as a surprise to receive a call from the president himself informing her of the joint Nobel prize win. Maria Ressa then goes on to explain how the president of her home country had filed ten arrest warrants against her during two years of her 35 years as a journalist. She is surprised and hopeful that this award will help her and her career. She describes this award as a “shield” or “boost of energy”, to give her the strength to continue her fight.

    She then describes how Facebook and other social media is used to promote corruption, manipulate others, twist the truth and spread lies. She explains how social media is being used as a behavior modifier where she is being seen as a criminal. Maria explains how journalists are put in danger and how women journalists are attacked more than men journalists. Even though the world is moving forward there is still much work to be done due to the lack of inequality. It makes you wonder how social media platforms that are meant to bring good and strengthen connections, spread the truth, and help bring the world together. Can be used to harm, divide, destroy and spread lies? What is the real truth and what is the real lies? Social media is supposed to help spread awareness throughout the world not subjugate it.

    In the documentary “A Thousand Cuts” Maria Ressa questions the presidents’ ways to fight the war on crime. She states that the presidents war on crime is violating human rights and the president shows he has no problem killing criminals or using any violent methods to do so. This resulted in their news website Rappler to undergo multiple attacks from all sides the president, social media and their followers.

    • chala

      The internet is a great way for a company to promote because of the billions of people . One popular place on the internet is facebook . Facebook can have companies and people become famous . Many people are on the internet . So with many people on the internet people talk about things that are important to them. Social media created a list of attractiveness and the hottest females are the ones who are thick . Facebook is so powerful and influences the minds of millions . Many females that are not thick are now jealous of the females that are because thick women get the most attention. Many females compare themselves to the thick females that are pretty and they hate themselves .

    • Mark Noonan

      Very impressive work reviewing Ressa’s interview and the amazing documentary on her work, Sean. I really liked your line that captures the problem of Facebook so well:

      It makes you wonder how social media platforms that are meant to bring good and strengthen connections, spread the truth, and help bring the world together can also be used to harm, divide, destroy and spread lies.

      What is the real truth, indeed!

  6. Darnell Black

    The facebook debate is a big debate and problem in our society today. But all debates have two sides on one side facebook and social media is very helpfully to society today, because of how informational it can be and also the free will it gives people by allowing them to spread there opinion to millions. However on the other side of the debate social media can be very misleading for the public and also can be misused by the public. An example of this is people spreading fake news on social media and also people using social media to start political uproars for certain uncalled for situations. Overall I do think social media does more good then bad for the public I just feel that some people may misuse facebook and social media.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent discussion Darnell. I really like your point that there really are two sides (positive/negative) when considering the effects of social media giants on the world.

      Indeed, as you say, social media can be “very helpful to society today, because of how it allows people to spread their opinions” but also very harmful. Well said!

  7. Chala Jamison

    The internet is a great way for a company to promote because of the billions of people . One popular place on the internet is facebook . Facebook can have companies and people become famous . Many people are on the internet . So with many people on the internet people talk about things that are important to them. Social media created a list of attractiveness and the hottest females are the ones who are thick . Facebook is so powerful and influences the minds of millions . Many females that are not thick are now jealous of the females that are because thick women get the most attention. Many females compare themselves to the thick females that are pretty and they hate themselves .

  8. Sergio Tello

    Watching the interview of Maria Ressa on France24.com its easily visable that there is a big struggle when it comes to human rights the and the freedom the press has when it comes to expressing. She explains in the interview that there are many obstacles she faces for exposing the corruption of the Phillipine’s president/ government; She won the Nobel prize, and further explains that she hopes the award can help her professional career grow and protect her a bit more in the fight that she has.

    In addition to this she also goes into the topic of how social media can be manipulative and false advertisement. She says thats as journalists they encounter a lot of danger vecause of how the information they provide can be misinterpreted or those who dont agree can possibly throw threats. This is similar to the idea of the article “ covid misinformation on Facebook is killing people”. There are a lot of dangers that come with social media, and its something that can’t necessarily be monitored completely because the publishers always find a way around deleted comments, bans, etc

    • Mark Noonan

      Sergio, I really like your points about the role social media can have on “human rights” (both positively and negatively). The example you provide on Covid (and vaccine) misinformation is a particularly important one.

  9. Daniel

    Facebook is a debate and problem in our society. After watching the 60 minutes interview with an ex-Facebook Employee, it just shows the harm that Facebook brings. Media platforms like Facebook can have a negative effect on society and how it can bring impact our well-being. Facebook has always tried to defend itself from saying that it’s not good for the society because of how it brings people together, but looking at it mentally because for teenagers it has constructed them to do bring harm to the public, its always been the case and see articles about it all the time, I was someone who used and relied on Facebook years ago during my middle school days and I can tell you it has impacted me a lot, it brought me in into more efficient communication which allowed me to talk more and show my ideas. Most people would see different interpretations on Facebook, research says people use it as a learning tool and being able to meet someone via communication but those interpretations have always failed to do good for Facebook. Learning in Facebook is a lost cause, i don’t understand how people can learn from Facebook, it’s not meant for that, especially meeting people which can put you in a position which you may attract the wrong partners or dating someone that could not be who they are, they could use you. Things like this can lead to many causes like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Facebook is always going to be the same to public, it already has impacted society for many years, recently I’ve heard on the news that the CEO of FB Mark Zuckerberg is upgrading Facebook by changing its name to “Meta” and creating online virtual features for it, at this point I know it’s going to impact society, even more, now we wait and see what happens when they release it.

  10. Jailyn Lavado

    I think Facebook and its sister platforms can be toxic but it becomes dangerous as Frances Haugen. As she photo copied Facebook’s own research, its clear that Facebook did not regulate these which is a negative. As Haugen stated, it becomes a place where hatred is breed and in turn causes alot of distrust to the public. Its worse when not regulated because it can give the message that Facebook either supports or does not care, which the lather is not better. On top of this, Facebook sells data that it promise to not sell; although this is not shocking the brand is tarnish by alot of these controversies.

    • Mark Noonan

      I couldn’t agree more, Jailyn. This topic would make for a good OpEd assignment.

  11. Judley L

    The article Teen girls, Instagram is a cesspool by Lindsay Crouse really touches on the issues with social media Facebook and how it has affected youth and specifically young teenage girls. There are many points in the article that I related to as well as disagreed with. For starters Lindsay delves into the a story behind the whistleblower Francis Hogan who exposed Facebook ruthless business tactics that allowed or put the revenue and profits of the company ahead of the social and mental well-being of its consumers.

    I agree with the point that social media Instagram in particular exacerbates the body dysmorphia that young girls face and Facebook and Instagram target vulnerable people in order to have them buy into products from their advertisements. For example often times when you follow health influencers on their sites you’re presented with advertisement for products that relate to whom ever you follow or whatever content you engage with. Platforms so naturally if there is a young girls suffering with body image problems they will probably be targeted with products that sell the idea that if they buy into it it will fix them and that reinforces the negative insecurities that they may have. However I do believe that suchh platforms have become more positive over the years especially with influencers raising awareness on body image issues and speaking on their personal struggles. Its created somewhat of a safe space for young girls who are going through the same body image issues and are struggling with depression and anorexia. Social media has helped make such problems a bit more relatable and connected people around the world. So although it does have its disadvantages and problems I don’t believe that it’s a cesspool because I believe that there is some good that comes from these platforms I just believe that it all depends on what you consume and how much of that you consume.

    • Mark Noonan

      Judley, You have a good material for your OpEd here on the pros and cons of social media.

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