‘False and misleading’: Reuters flags trolls who weaponize 2022 Digital News Report

·Contributor
·3 min read
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rappler CEO Maria Ressa delivers a speech. Reuters. 2022 Digital News Report.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rappler CEO Maria Ressa delivers a speech during the Cartooning Award Ceremony at the World Press Freedom Day in Geneva on May 3, 2022. University of Oxford Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the Director of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, condemned the misreading and “weaponization” of its 2022 Digital News Report against online news site Rappler. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Director of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, condemned the misreading and “weaponization” of its 2022 Digital News Report against online news site Rappler, which claims it was “the least trusted news outlet” in the country.

In a tweet, Nielsen praised Rappler’s courageous reportage in a polarized society, and that he’s “sorry to see our research abused as part of attacks on it.”

“Our work is being abused by those who claim it finds that Rappler is the least trusted (or most distrusted) news organization in the Philippines. This is a false and misleading claim, as will be clear to anyone who has actually read the Digital News Report 2022,” Nielsen said in a statement.

The Digital News Report 2022, released on June 14, has found that more and more people are avoiding the news and trusting it less.

The report for the Philippines, written by University of the Philippine Journalism Professor Yvonne T. Chua, the media industry continues to be under attack, with journalists and fact-checkers being vilified not just by internet trolls but also officials in power, and the websites of big and small news organizations were targeted with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks for hours, sometimes even days.

The incoming administration of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., on the other hand, is stepping up its fight against legitimate news by “snubbing media-hosted debates, and gave preferential treatment to friendly social media influencers and a partisan TV station that repeatedly lambasted mainstream media.”

Meanwhile, also included in the report is a “brand trust scores,” in which Philippine media outlets were ranked according to trust scores, with an attached footnote that says it should not be treated as a list of the most trusted brands in the country.

But that doesn’t stop pro-Marcos propagandists from weaponizing the said report. “[T]his is what happens when you get targeted,” Rappler CEO and Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa said, quote-tweeting the claim.

“Not a surprise that accounts like @amigoManila campaigning for Marcos are doing information operations that are spreading lies. Why are you so afraid of little @rapplerdotcom?” Ressa said in a reply tweet.

Nielsen believes that these attacks reflect what he thinks as the “cost of courage,” that independent news and media face when they hold power to account against all odds.

“Trust in news is about much more than the factual accuracy and the trustworthiness of an outlet’s journalism. But it’s also about how that work is interpreted in the light of domestic politics and people’s partisan sympathies,” Nielsen said.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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