90 Hate Mails per Hour

The co-founder of the news website Rappler, Maria Ressa, disclosed the massive spread of fake-news by the government in the Philippines.

She's been to jail. She's been threatened with rape, even with death. But she's not backing off.

Maria Ressa is a world-renowned journalist and co-founder of Rappler, a popular news website in the Philippines. She spent two decades working as an investigative reporter, foreign correspondent and was bureau chief for CNN in Manila and Jakarta before starting Rappler. In 2018, Time Magazine named her "Person of the Year".

Rappler spot-lighted the dealings of the troll army of Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, in 2016 and minutely chronicled the spread of fake news on Facebook to manipulate public opinion about Duterte’s presidency and state-supported extrajudicial killings in the so-called "war on drugs". So, as a result, Maria became the target of Duterte's supporters – and she also turned into one of the most harsh critics of Facebook, she explains in the Bits & Pretzels Podcast:

"Facebook and other social media platforms are the enablers of the rise of authoritarian populist leaders globally."

Rappler developed a series of impressive graphs showing just how massively disinformation is prevailed in social networks and how easy it is spreading. Maria thinks that lies just need to be repeated often enough to become facts. For sure, says Maria in the Bits & Pretzels Podcast, propaganda has always been there through history. But technology has changed everything. It enables propaganda to pound a million times. It erases facts and therefore the truth, the foundations of democracy:

"Social media now allows lies (...). Democracy as we know it – is dead."

Maria faces the decisions in eight different lawsuits within the next three to four months, for example for the allegedly violation a dubious "cyber-libel" law. Her website has been indicted by the government on questionable tax-evasion charges. But as harsh the conditions are for Maria and her team of 100 reporters, she's trying to keep running the business.

"We hold the line. We have to stand up when our rights are being violated. I want to make sure that Rappler continues doing investigative stories that hold the powerful to account, even when they use their power to strike us down."

2:32 83 years in jail
6:55 "Social media allows lies"
10:00 "Democracy is dead"
18:01 90 hate messages per hour
26:14 Bavarian beer break
30:00 Philippine Oktoberfest
33:00 Embrace to go to jail
35:35 How and when it all started
39:22 1 Rappler = 10 TV journalists
41:54 Either-or-game

Production & Editing: Regina Körner, Migo Fricke, Hubert Honold. Design: Christian Lohmeier, Max Keis.