TRIAD CONNECTION. President Rodrigo R. Duterte shows a copy of a diagram showing the connection of high level drug syndicates operating in the country during a press conference at Malacañang on July 7, 2016. KING RODRIGUEZ/Presidential Photographers Division

PODCAST: How Facebook Abets Rodrigo Duterte’s Drug War in the Philippines

If you want a glimpse of a dystopian future in which authoritarian leaders harness the power of social media to carry out human rights abuses and suppress their political opponents, you need to look no further than the Philippines today.

There are few countries in the world as hyper connected on Facebook as the Philippines. And here, President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies are using Facebook to advance their so-called war on drugs which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, mostly through extra-judicial killings. All the while, so called Facebook “influencers” are spreading false information — even a faked pornographic image to undermine leaders in the Philippines who are critical of Duterte. It is a nightmare situation and one in which Facebook is an accomplice.

On the line with me to discuss the deleterious effect of Facebook on democracy in the Philippines is Davey Alba. She is a senior technology reporter with BuzzFeed News who wrote a deeply reported article examining the mechanics of how Duterte and his allies have harnessed Facebook to advance an authoritarian agenda while undermining domestic political opposition. Facebook has very much become a tool of Duterte’s drug war and what is happening in the Philippines right now should serve as a warning about Facebook’s potential to undermine democracy.

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