>> She risks her own life to tell the truth.
A Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist this week on "Firing Line."
>> We can continue down the path we're on and descend further into fascism, or we can choose to fight for a better world.
>> Her work as a prominent journalist in the Philippines makes Maria Ressa a target of online hate and of the Filipino government, which has convicted her on false charges that could put her in jail for life.
>> And they told us I have to keep this order of release with me in case someone tries to arrest me.
>> Prominent human rights attorney Amal Clooney has taken on her case.
>> The only thing standing between her and a prison cell is one decision from the Philippines Supreme Court.
>> Ressa also has a warning for the role U.S. social-media companies play in amplifying disinformation and eroding democracy around the world.
>> Who enabled that?
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
>> I spoke to Ressa as she visited the United States just days before returning to an uncertain future in the Philippines.
>> The charges I face could send me to jail for about 100 years.
>> What does Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Maria Ressa, welcome to "Firing Line."
>> Thanks for having me.
>> You're a Filipino-American journalist, and you've spent your career focusing on preserving freedom of the press.
You've done this in the face of harassment from the government of the Philippines.
And you detail all of this in your new book, "How to Stand Up to a Dictator."
Last year, you and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Why do you think it was so important that journalists were recognized by the Nobel Committee, something that hadn't happened for 90 years?
>> I've always thought that the quality of a democracy's journalism, quality of a nation's journalists, determine the quality of its democracy.
I've covered Southeast Asia since 1986, and I've -- you know, I began my career with the pendulum swing where it looked like democracy was unstoppable.
And now, at the tail end of my career, this pendulum is swinging back the other way.
This time is important because democracy has been rolled back to 1989 levels, in terms of the number of countries around the world.
60% of the world's population now live under autocrats, autocracy.
>> Which was the case in 1989.
>> Ah, yes.
And the worst part here is that we are back in a place where propaganda has shifted reality.
This time, it's actually -- it's not just moving pictures or radio.
This is insidious manipulation, using our biology, using our data, creating clones of us, essentially, that can be insidiously manipulated through our emotions to change the way we look at the world and ultimately the way we act.
>> Your career in journalism, you started working in television news for Filipino stations, and then you went to work for CNN.
And you worked for CNN as a top investigative reporter.
You were the bureau chief in Manila.
You opened the bureau in Jakarta.
You investigated the terror network in the Philippines that helped plan the 9/11 attacks.
What did you learn then about how hatred can spread?
>> Watching the virulent ideology of Al-Qaeda, how did it spread person to person?
How did recruitment happen?
Groups put pressure on individuals to do things they wouldn't normally do on their own.
Indonesia taught me mob rule, how it pops up -- right?
-- and how a mob gives you permission.
You're a nice person but gives you permission, when a mob forms, to join the mob.
>> In 2005, you left CNN... >> Yes.
>> ...to run the largest television news network in the Philippines.
You ran that for six years, and then you left to launch and co-found the digital news site Rappler in 2012.
What was Rappler's mission?
>> Well, it's the same.
The mission of journalism has always been to hold power to account, right?
So the reason we set it up was, I felt that the very things that made a large legacy news organization succeed are the very things that make it fail -- in the virtual world, in the Internet, in the age of the Internet.
Because when you're running a large organization, CNN, PBS, you know, what you do when you're managing it is, it's about efficiency.
And in the largest network, our best people work on prime-time news because that's where you get the most revenue.
And who is on the Internet?
Our youngest, our third-string.
And it was really becoming clear to me that the Internet was going to be transformative, that social media was going to be transformative.
So when we set up Rappler, it was -- the elevator pitch when I was raising money is that we build communities of action, and the food we feed our communities is journalism, because in the end, I was about impact.
>> You say that you... What is the pernicious effect that social media is having on democracies?
>> It's that lies are rewarded.
It's that simple, right?
By design, what the technology platforms were able to do because they focused on technology -- And they didn't look at the potential societal harms.
They didn't have a set of standards and ethics.
What they did is, they kept you scrolling.
They treated us like Pavlov's dogs.
Which tactic will keep you on site longer?
>> And what tactics keep people on sites?
>> Lies laced with anger and hate.
And it's inevitably fear, anger, hate, us against them.
>> You describe the impact of social media in your Nobel Prize speech.
>> An invisible atom bomb has exploded in our information ecosystem, and the world must act, as it did after Hiroshima.
>> What did you mean by that?
>> It is as devastating as an atom bomb, what has happened in our information ecosystem.
When news organizations lost our gatekeeping powers to technology, two groups abdicated responsibility for protecting the public sphere.
The tech platforms themselves.
They actually don't distinguish between lies and facts.
And then the other group that abdicated responsibility was our governments.
Here's what happened in 2016, right?
We didn't debate facts.
But in 2016, if you were pro Duterte, you moved further right, and if you're anti Duterte, you move further left.
You can substitute Trump, Duterte, Orbán, Bolsonaro, any strongman digital populist with authoritarian tendencies.
This is where we are.
So it isn't about, uh...
It's about behavior.
It's about algorithms that are replicated millions of times.
That's the impact on our society.
>> You have spoken to Mark Zuckerberg about this.
You warned Facebook executives about the dangers of their platform.
And I wasn't the only one.
>> What did you tell Mark Zuckerberg?
>> Well, I told him about the extra the power Facebook had in the Philippines.
I met with him in 2017, and I told him, "You really --" I invited him to come to the Philippines, 'cause I said 97% of Filipinos on the Internet are on Facebook.
Facebook is our Internet.
It's extremely powerful.
>> Do you think he understood the severity of your message?
No, it's really clear he didn't, in retrospect.
I mean, his first instinct, again, was growth.
He said, "Where are the other 3%?"
>> Did he care?
Look, I never wanted to make it be personal.
Not with Duterte.
Not with Mark Zuckerberg.
But in 2016, I -- that's when I realized we had to call for an end to impunity.
And these two men, were actually changing our world in the Philippines, and not for the better.
Rodrigo Duterte had started a brutal drug war where my reporter -- one reporter, every night, would come home with video of at least eight dead bodies every night -- gagged, dumped on the sidewalk.
Who enabled that?
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
In 2016, I went to them with what we found, that 26 fake accounts can actually influence at least 3 million others.
We counted that manually.
I gave the Excel sheets.
I wanted to talk about this.
I believed in Facebook.
I thought that if they could see the problem, that they would...
I thought the best of the company.
I was very, very disappointed.
And, you know, a lot of it is because it's the business model.
>> The business model.
>> TikTok is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the world.
>> But you point out there are actually two TikToks.
There is a TikTok that operates in China.
There's a TikTok that operates for the rest of the world.
What is the difference, and what does that tell us?
>> So, the difference is, in China, there are safeguards in place.
If you're 14 years old and below, you can only watch so many videos in a day.
And then there's educational videos.
So this is -- the Chinese want their kids to learn and to not be addicted.
Tristan Harris called this the "spinach version of TikTok."
And he said that China exported the opioid version of TikTok to the rest of the world.
If you think of Facebook as, like, a mallet, TikTok is a surgical probe.
It will get worse.
>> There are Republicans who have called for TikTok to be banned in the United States.
What do you think of that?
>> I think when you begin to take actions like this, then you begin to look at the entire information ecosystem.
>> In other words, you can't ban TikTok and ignore Facebook or Twitter.
>> These are all insidious manipulations.
What's the difference?
Just because it comes from the other side of the world, you're going to you're going to prevent it.
But yet this one that is yours, which has damaged or killed democracy in other parts of the world, which has enabled genocide in other parts of the world, you're going to let that through?
>> Elon Musk has taken over Twitter.
>> It has resulted in a considerable amount of turmoil at the company.
What do you want him to do with the platform?
>> Understand that it's about more than America.
It has become a global -- It's where activists -- global activists -- raise campaigns that have had real-world impact.
Iran, the women in Iran.
That was ongoing when Elon Musk decided to start randomly switching the principles that guided an entire platform for the rest of the world.
Human-rights campaigners used Twitter actively to be able to connect directly to U.S. lawmakers, for example, or to Canadian lawmakers or the E.U.
That's what it was.
And I think Elon Musk sees it only as, again, the libertarian, the free speech.
It is much more than that.
And the question is going to be, how do we protect the public sphere?
This is a public sphere.
It is the global public sphere.
>> When you look at the protests in China, when you look at the protests in Iran, when you look at the fact that Russia appears to be in retreat in Ukraine, are authoritarians on their back foot?
>> Not yet.
No, I don't believe so.
I mean, because...
The corruption remains.
The atom bomb is still there.
>> So your view is that, until the original atom bomb -- >> Is addressed.
>> ...has been addressed... >> Yeah, yeah.
>> ...that authoritarians will still have these tools at their disposal.
>> And they continue to use these tools.
We're not at a place yet where democracy is safe.
And there will be temporary wins.
There'll be temporary losses.
But until the original sin is addressed, until you give us a space where we can agree on the facts, where we can debate, where we can listen, more importantly, then -- then we can begin to move forward.
You can't hold power to account if you don't know what they've done.
>> A 2018 MIT study, which you refer to frequently -- >> All the time.
>> But I want to unpack it for the audience.
>> So, a 2018 MIT study determined that false news spreads on social media "significantly further, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, sometimes by a factor of 100."
Why is that?
And how can facts compete?
>> We can't.
You can't go up against salacious lies.
You can't go up against hate.
You can't go up against this kind of manipulation that -- It's just like forming a mob in Indonesia.
When a mob happens, it's like kin-- like throwing a match in kindling.
And so that's the -- that's the dilemma.
Lies will spread.
It's so funny.
The old world relied on name and shame, right?
We get better behavior from all of us when people know that there's a light shining on you.
Well, name and shame doesn't work anymore in the age of exponential lies.
This day of the modern authoritarian, they lie.
Step one -- you lie all the time.
Step two -- you say it's the journalist.
You have to hit the journalists because you have to take down their credibility.
Step three -- everyone looks around and says, "Who's lying?
What's the truth?"
There is no truth.
We don't have a shared reality.
So, again, when we become the targets, we're defenseless.
We just have to keep taking the blows.
And that's what I've learned.
>> So you've taken a lot of blows as a journalist, personally, misogynistic blows.
Lots of online harassment.
>> Talk about it.
>> Everything that is vulnerable about -- that people think you're vulnerable if you're ashamed of something, the way I look, the way I sound.
I guess the goal was to make me so ashamed that I would opt out.
That's always the goal.
Pound to silence or hit a vulnerability.
Look, the UNESCO and International Center for Journalists finally did a big-data case study of the attacks against me.
They took almost half a million social-media attacks, and they they went through natural language processing, and they found out that 60% was meant to tear down my credibility, 40% was meant to tear down my spirit.
That makes sense, because if you don't believe me and then I don't think it's worth sacrificing so much, I'm silenced.
>> Did it work?
>> Didn't work.
I mean, you know, maybe this is one of the good things that the Nobel Peace Prize did do, at least for me and Rappler.
>> Did it help you?
On a personal level, did it fortify you?
>> Doing the right thing is the right thing.
It helped that, right?
And for journalists and Rappler, it was a vindication that we weren't fools.
So the whole point of this is to try to tear us down, to stop us from doing our work.
>> Do you think the weaponization of online platforms, social media, brought Duterte to power?
>> It's a combination of both, a perfect storm.
There was a drug problem in the Philippines.
Duterte made that his top campaign.
And Duterte offered solutions.
He didn't tell you how he was going to get there, but it was a strongman rule.
He offered law, not rule of law.
Rule by law, and there's a big difference between those.
And it's funny because when I spoke to him shortly before he was campaigning, he admitted he killed three people on camera.
So no qualms about killing killers?
>> Listen, of course.
I must admit I have killed.
I killed about... three people.
>> This clip has been used by other news groups all around the world.
But then, also, beyond that, he was very straightforward that violence is part of his leadership style, that Filipinos need to be disciplined.
This is -- It's pretty much similar to the dictator's playbook in different parts of the world.
>> Rappler covered the human-rights violations of Duterte.
His war on drugs, as you mentioned, including all these extrajudicial killings and other government malfeasance.
The regime retaliated against Rappler, revoked Rappler's license, charged you with multiple crimes and offenses.
And you spoke about this retaliation in your Nobel Prize speech.
>> In less than two years, the Philippine government filed 10 arrest warrants against me.
All told, the charges I face could send me to jail for about 100 years.
>> Could you go to jail for 100 years?
>> The rest of my life.
>> You've hired human-rights attorney Amal Clooney.
How has she helped defend you, and what is the status of those cases?
>> So, the cases are ongoing.
I call Amal my last resort.
What she has done is to make sure we're prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
>> What is the worst-case scenario?
>> It could be violence, which I have no control over, or jail.
And either way, I have to -- I have to be ready to -- to deal with that.
I'm very pragmatic about this.
I've lived a roller-coaster life.
You know, extreme highs, extreme lows.
Nobel Prize, arrests, detention, and shutdown.
So one of the things that we've done is, can we get shut down?
Can it happen at any time?
So what do we do if we get shut down?
Let's plan it.
Let's work-flow it.
Let's drill it.
So, since 2018, we drill this as a company.
>> How worried about your own personal safety are you?
>> It's like being in a war zone.
You don't really know.
You know that it can be dangerous.
But I try to, every morning, you know, figure out "Where is the wind blowing?
What are the threats today?
What do I need to do?"
>> The Marcos family has, of course, historically been associated with political violence.
Benigno Aquino was, of course, assassinated on the tarmac when he returned to the Philippines in 1983.
By the time this program airs, you'll have returned to the Philippines.
>> What level of concern do you have about the new Marcos government?
The new president, of course, is the son of Ferdinand Marcos.
>> The only son and namesake, and he won the vote overwhelmingly.
You know, he did that in two ways because he -- information operations beginning in 2014 changed history in front of our eyes.
Marcos -- >> Meaning they changed his reputation for the population.
>> Pariah, corrupt, kleptocrat to greatest leader the nation has ever had.
The son, Marcos Jr., campaigned using the same clothes as his father, the same updated music his father used.
It was fascinating to watch.
And he won overwhelmingly.
>> How does this impact your security?
>> There are pros and cons.
[ Laughs ] And I would say right now, TBD, you know?
Because Marcos Jr. has a lot to prove.
He wants to change his -- the history of his -- of what "Marcos" means.
I think he wants to succeed.
He needs to succeed.
>> So what do you think success looks like to him, and is a free press part of that?
>> I hope.
You know, and again, I don't -- I don't like being overly optimistic.
I'll prepare for the worst first.
And what we're doing is, we're in a wait-and-see attitude, and I hope for the best.
>> It's important for you to go back.
>> Oh, my God.
There's no option.
>> As a citizen, I'm unjustly accused, and I will fight to prove that.
If I were to not go back, which is something my family will always say, then I become a criminal.
Then I make the lie a reality.
I'm not going to do that, you know?
>> Because if they can intimidate me, then they intimidate not just my company.
It's -- It's a signal.
And I'm not going to be a tipping point the other way.
>> That's right.
In 1977, five years after President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines, he was asked by William F. Buckley Jr., the original host of this program, to explain himself.
Here's what he said.
>> Mr. President, when -- when you decreed martial law in 1972, you gave as your reasons for doing so the decadence of what you called the old order.
Could you -- Could you describe for the benefit of Americans what it is that you found defective in the old order?
Well, the old order meant anarchy, disorder, rebellion.
When I became president in 1965, I had warned that we were slowly slipping into an abyss from which there was no pulling out.
And this was the gradual erosion of the authority of the government to enforce the law.
>> Well, that aged well, didn't it?
I mean, we know what he did after this, and, uh... >> So, given what we know that happened in that history, how does it make you feel that his son is now in power?
>> It's cycles of history.
>> And this cycle of history was 36 years.
>> President Biden met with President Marcos in September.
What should the U.S. policy be, with respect to the new Marcos regime?
>> The Philippines is strategic for the United States.
Always has been.
I think always you expect the United States to deal with its strategic interests, but it also has to stand for its values.
And it has, so far.
We've talked a lot about the problem, but I know you also have spent a lot of time thinking about solutions.
What are some key areas of focus that can fix the problem?
>> So you can see I'm very, very focused on the corruption of the information ecosystem, right?
So when I look at solutions to that, we know, in the long term, it is going to have to be education.
Medium term, it has to be legislation.
Kick in here.
But that's medium term.
In the short term, what we did is, we realized that you have to have a whole of society approach.
And it wasn't politics.
We protected the facts.
When we did that, we found that inspiration spreads as far, as fast as anger, as hate.
That's an interesting discovery.
And I think, for Americans, as you walk into your presidential elections -- you came out of midterms, right?
-- how are you going to protect the facts?
The facts aren't partisan.
And I think every country needs to figure out what are the critical segments of society that protect the facts.
Because everyone should have that same interest, regardless of which political party you're from.
But the reality is that we shouldn't be here.
There should be laws in place to protect us against this insidious manipulation, and we should all be demanding that.
>> Maria Ressa, for all that you've contributed and for your continued fight for free speech and for journalism and for peace, thank you for joining me here on "Firing Line."
>> Thank you for having me.
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> You're watching PBS.