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What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon?

It’s social media in the age of “patriotic trolling” in the Philippines, where the government is waging a campaign to destroy a critic—with a little help from Facebook itself.
Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Philippines’ leading online news site.

Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Philippines’ leading online news site.

Photographer: Kevin Kunishi for Bloomberg Businessweek

Rodrigo Duterte walked down the aisle of a packed auditorium at De La Salle University in downtown Manila, shaking hands and waving to nearly 2,000 college students snapping photos of the rising political star. At the front of the hall, waiting for him in a sharp red jacket, was Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Philippines’ largest online news site, Rappler.

Ressa, something of a journalistic legend in her country, had invited five candidates for the 2016 Philippine presidential election to a Rappler forum called #TheLeaderIWant. Only Duterte showed on this January afternoon. So, after the crowd stood for the national anthem, Ressa introduced the lone candidate and his running mate. “The stage is yours,” she said to applause.