Nobel Peace Prize winner blasts social media giants in award speech

Nobel Peace Prize winner blasts social media giants for ‘allowing a virus of lies to infect us all’ and aiding ‘dictators around the world’ with a ‘toxic sludge’ of misinformation

  • Maria Ressa slammed tech for ‘triggering the worst in us’ as she received prize
  • The Philippine journalist said ‘online violence is real world violence’ at ceremony
  • She co-founded a news website critical of President Rodrigo Duterte 
  • A Nobel Peace Prize winner lashed out at US tech giants, accusing them of fuelling a ‘toxic sludge’ on social media as she received her award today.

    Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, the co-founder of news website Rappler, which runs articles highly critical of president Rodrigo Duterte, used her speech to blast Silicon Valley for ‘triggering the worst in us’.

    She said big tech ‘has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger and hate, and setting the stage for the rise of authoritarians and dictators around the world.’

    Philippine journalist Maria Ressa launched a vitriolic attack on US tech giants as she received her Nobel Peace Prize today

    Philippine journalist Maria Ressa launched a vitriolic attack on US tech giants as she received her Nobel Peace Prize today

    She added: ‘Our greatest need today is to transform that hate and violence, the toxic sludge that’s coursing through our information ecosystem, prioritised by American internet companies that make more money by spreading that hate and triggering the worst in us.

    ‘What happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media. Online violence is real world violence.’

    Ressa, the first person from the Philippines to win the coveted prize, shared the award with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the independent Novaya Gazeta, for their separate fights for freedom of expression.

    She said facts and truth were at the heart of solving the biggest challenges facing society today.

    ‘Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with our world’s existential problems: climate, coronavirus, the battle for truth.’

    She shared the award with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov (pictued), the editor-in-chief of the independent Novaya Gazeta

    She shared the award with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov (pictued), the editor-in-chief of the independent Novaya Gazeta

    Ressa is the subject of seven lawsuits in her country that she says risk putting her in jail for 100 years.

    Currently on parole, pending an appeal after being convicted of defamation last year, she needed to ask four courts for permission to travel and collect her Nobel in person.

    In his speech, Muratov called for a minute of silence during the ceremony to honour journalists killed in the line of duty.

    ‘Let us rise and honour my and Maria Ressa’s reporter colleagues, who have given their lives for this profession, with a minute of silence, and let us give our support to those who suffer persecution,’ Muratov said, adding: ‘I want journalists to die old.’ 

    ‘Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and strong grip,’ Muratov said of journalists. ‘But we are the prerequisite for progress. We are the antidote against tyranny.’

    Ressa is the co-founder of news website Rappler, which runs articles highly critical of president Rodrigo Duterte (pictured)

    Ressa is the co-founder of news website Rappler, which runs articles highly critical of president Rodrigo Duterte (pictured)

    Muratov also used his speech to gave a dire warning about the potential for a war between Russia and Ukraine. A massive Russian troop buildup near Ukraine’s border has led to Western diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion, which the Kremlin has denied it is planning.

    ‘In (the) heads of some crazy geopoliticians, a war between Russia and Ukraine is not something impossible any longer. But I know that wars end with identifying soldiers and exchanging prisoners,’ Muratov said.

    Together with the medals with the effigy of the prizes founder Alfred Nobel and diploma, came 10 million kronor (£840,000) to be shared between them.

    Ceremonies honouring all of the newest Nobel laureates are held in Oslo and Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death. 

    But due to the pandemic, the awards in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics were presented during ceremonies in the laureates’ hometowns.