Duterte’s office denied involvement, telling VOA last year that the decision came from Congress and not his administration.
ABS-CBN still offers news and entertainment shows online and has agreements to broadcast its shows with other smaller television stations. But a large sector of its operations ceased in the Philippines.
In an interview with VOA last year, award-winning journalist, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa warned that social media in the Philippines is being used to foster “digital authoritarianism.”
She flagged the impact that the loss of ABS-CBN with its provincial stations and the rise of disinformation on social media can have on communities.
“All those provinces have lost their main sources of information, making them more vulnerable to government, to propaganda,” Ressa said. “If we don’t have guardrails around the social media platforms, we will not have the integrity of elections.”
Because of their critical reporting on government policies, Ressa and Rappler have been considered Duterte critics. She is fighting several court cases, with 14 new cyber complaints filed against Rappler in recent weeks.
Around 75 percent of Filipinos are online, mostly on Facebook and YouTube, according to international nonprofit Internews. But the reach of the internet and social media platforms has increased the window for disinformation and propaganda online.
That same widespread use of the internet means it’s easier to target journalists online, with Ressa herself suffering years of online abuse.
A study by the International Center for Journalists found an average of 90 hate messages an hour directed at Ressa in 2016.