Category Archives: e-democracy

Web Index Report: threats to online freedom and democracy grow ever more

World Summit on the Information Society Declaration

Back in my university days, I learned of a useful framework for analysing the ills of the educational system called “ABCs”. It stands for: Access and participation, Bureaucracy and control, and (Counter-)Consciousness formation. The ABCs describe the fundamental problems faced by the educational system in the Philippines (and in my opinion, traditional education all over the world). Take it further and you’ll get the “D” in the framework — Development — which sets the roadmap for change.

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Five good reads: collaborative economy value chain; Google Mine; finding meaning in stories and numbers; a platform for whistleblowers; and freedom from fear

1. Keynote: The Collaborative Economy with Jeremiah Owyang

The collaborative economy: an economic model where ownership and access are shared between people, startups, and corporations. What this means: the ownership of core business functions are shared with customers.

How does the value chain of the collaborative economy look like? And more importantly, where would your business fit? Which business functions in your company could collaborate with the crowd? Continue reading

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Socbiz insights: on social media and storytelling

Truth and storytelling

The most important lesson there is to learn in social media advocacy is this: you must let the truth get in the way of storytelling. Whether you are advocating a cause on social media or creating a branded story for a company, I would urge you to remain steadfast in telling the truth. Don’t let a creatively brilliant white lie overshadow your message when it later blows up in your face. There are a hundred more creative options.

There was a time when a brand’s mere presence on social networks signalled brand authenticity. But nowadays, with everybody aboard and Likes are bought for a bargain, it has become even more important to send a clear message amidst the noise. Many do this by purposely putting out captivating branded stories that appear to be real – unstaged – but in reality, they are simply ads that were conceptualised, directed and produced, and distributed. One of the more recent examples is Pepsi’s Test Drive video.

Is fake OK if it’s funny? Is ‘creative fake’ the new form of authenticity?

I have mixed feelings about this. I was (am?) a fan of Blair Witch and thought they were brilliant with creating viral effect by using fake news on its website. That’s no different than what Pepsi has done. But the more I think about how I feel about it, the more uncomfortable I get. Entertaining, definitely, but ethical?

Unless satire is the message, I think it’s unethical for advertising to use misinformation or pretend that what they’re showing is real footage and not staged. There are other ways of being creative.

Same goes for those using social media for advocating social change. While the  pressure to simplify issues is great and in some cases, justifiable (since social networks love simple, emotional and visual content), today’s connected world demand transparency. Remember Kony 2012? They had to release a second video to address the criticism levelled against the first one. Many people from the non-profit world had the same musing: “…if they’d only told the whole truth in the original video, as opposed to what just made for the best story, there might not have been a need for the second video.

Let the truth get in the way of the storytelling.

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Digital diplomacy and real-world conflicts

I first heard about the arrest of comedian and satirist Bassem Youssef on the opening sequence of ‘The Daily Show” last Monday. Jon Stewart lambasted President Mohamed Morsi for Egypt’s continuing investigation of Youssef — not for mocking the President but for defamation of his religion.

A diplomatic row ensued on Twitter when the U.S. Embassy to Cairo tweeted the link to the Daily Show clip, which earned condemnation from both the official Twitter accounts of the Egyptian president’s office and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Cairo embassy Twitter account has adopted an informal but strong voice and earned the reputation of being active in replying to citizens and journalists, engaging directly with critics, and was even described as going “rogue” in a few occasions.  This time, they deleted their Twitter account after posting the controversial link, which in turn earned the ire of Washington. They restored it online but have deleted the controversial tweet (and seem to be deleting old controversial tweets as well).

Focusing only on the Cairo Embassy’s use of Twitter: I wonder what their social media guidelines are and what their goals are in using Twitter? I like that they are more open to engaging with their public, but when it comes to handling sensitive issues, it seems their Twitter account is working in isolation if not misaligned with their other communication channels. In their world, sharing opinion and maintaining diplomacy is like walking a tightrope. This is why having a clear goal is crucial: should engagement in Twitter come at the cost of diplomacy? I think the true test of how social they are is not just how open they are in their tweets, but if the way they communicate and engage with their public helps in resolving real-world conflicts.

Get the lowdown on this incident from these sites:
Egypt and U.S. Argue Over Jon Stewart, ‘America’s Bassem Youssef’
Jon Stewart sparks Twitter fight between U.S. Embassy and Egyptian president’s office
The U.S. Embassy to Egypt’s Oddly Informal Twitter Feed
U.S. Embassy in Cairo goes rogue on Twitter
U.S. Embassy Tweets Jon Stewart’s Egypt Monologue; Diplomatic Incident Ensues


The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to the Embassy’s tweet that shared a link to the Daily Show segment that criticised Pres. Morsi.
The Muslim Brotherhood tweets that the issue is not about mocking the President but defaming his religion.
Some of the critical comments by activists and bloggers in response to Youssef’s arrest
The Twitter spats between the US Embassy in Cairo and Mulsim Brotherhood are not new.
Teetering between Twitter transparency and digital diplomacy
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Crowdsourcing: more than just an online solution

Interesting development in the Philippines: The Crowdsourcing Act of 2012 introduced by Senator TG Guingona, the lone dissenter in the passing of the Cybercrime Law.  The Senator is asking for comments, acknowledging that as a first draft, this bill is far from perfect. So here are my three thoughts on this: will comments be actionable, will there be an offline component, and in what kind of ecosystem will it live?

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Politics, social media and magic realism

I wrote about the case of Senator Vicente Sotto of the Philippines and the criticism he got (and is receiving) from Filipino netizens. I said that though the issue snowballed in social media networks, the real “issue is not just about blogging, or copyright or giving proper attribution. This goes beyond social media. It’s about dignifying the process of legislation by making sure your research methods are sound, your facts correct,  and your analysis genuinely valuable and actionable.”

Today, I read in the news that the lesson learned from this experience is that the Senate should “pass a bill setting the parameters on blogging.” How it got to this point seems surreal to me.  When you look back at the the events that led to this, this is how the decision triage must have looked like.

UPDATE – 7 Sept. 2012: I updated the flowchart to cover the latest developments (Sotto accused of copying new speech from Kennedy, and Sotto telling critics to beware of the Cybercrime Law.)

UPDATE – 19 Sept. 2012:  A man of his word – that’s Senator Sotto. He inserted a libel clause in the Cybercrime Law, specifically targeting social media use. He wants to make people accountable for the content they produce and interact with online, but he has done it without really understanding the nature of the Internet, and without conducting a congressional public hearing. Goodbye satire, hello dark ages… The flowchart has been modified to reflect these changes. (Hope he won’t charge me with libel.)

UPDATE – 14 Nov. 2012:  Filipino bloggers and professors have formally filed a complaint to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges against Senator Sotto for alleged plagiarism in his speeches. A few days earlier, three US bloggers confirmed they were set to file a similar complaint against Sotto for plagiarising their work in his speech against the Reproductive Health Bill. Also set to file a complaint is Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US senator Robert F. Kennedy. She rebuked Sotto’s  “… unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy’s intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those whose work he has plagiarized.”

No, this is not fiction. It’s real albeit surreal. It wouldn’t have been such a big issue if a sincere apology was offered from the very start and amends were quickly made.

Creative Commons License
Sottonism flowchart by Timi Stoop-Alcala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Naming a bully, catching a plagiarist

There were two incidents in Manila last week that caught the attention of Filipino netizens, sparked some online sleuthing, and gave a good demonstration of social density. One involved a traffic aide who got slapped around by a motorist. The other, a Senator who plagiarised an American blogger.

Source:      Source:


We are watching

The traffic aide, Saturnino Fabros, apprehended the motorist who beat the red light. The then unidentified motorist alighted from his car and rained curses on Fabros, took his cap and struck him with it, and then hit him on the face.  Fabros appeared to stoically endure the attack. Now, we know why. He was thinking of his six motherless daughters. He was stunned, and then frightened that the motorist might have a gun and would shoot him. What would then happen to his daughters? And so he endured the insults and the blows.

The video, caught by chance by a TV network researcher, soon spread like wildfire on social media networks. I saw it on Facebook first. The ‘call-to-action’, so to speak, was to find the ‘fat Volvo-riding bully’ and identify him. Name the bully.

And named he was: Robert Blair Carabuena, a recruitment executive of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. Named and marked with the digital scarlet letter.

The spotlight has also been set on Fabros, who, by accounts given by colleagues and neighbours, is a nice and meek man, and a devoted father. Certainly the opposite of the corrupt traffic enforcers and aides that the public is used to, which I think also explpains the public’s outpouring of sympathy for his plight. The more the world looks into the man, the more they see the everyman in him. Fabros lives in a 25-square-meter shanty, one of hundreds,  in a community called Lupang Pangako (Promised Land). This promised land surrounds a towering garbage mountain where Fabros used to scavenge for bottles and cans with his wife when she was still alive.

Social media loves underdogs, and Fabros is the man we all want to save right now. Fund-raising campaigns have been started to help him and his daughters. So far, the media is letting the truth get in the way of storytelling, and I hope it remains that way.  I know that the problems by ‘Mang Satur’ and the marginalised which he now represents, can only be truly solved by structural solutions, not social media. But what social media can do right here and right now is to shine the spotlight on him and help him keep his head above water. Hopefully it leads to more long-lasting solutions.

Just a blogger…just another bill?

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gave a privilege speech opposing the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. He described the harmful effects of contraceptives on unborn babies, citing his own personal tragedy – the death of his own infant son 37 years ago – as an example.  It turned out that the arguments he presented were lifted verbatim from, not just one but, five bloggers and a briefing paper.   No attributions were made to his sources. The Senator’s Chief-of-Staff says blogs are in the public domain and no laws cover them so copying from blogs can’t be considered plagiarism. Sotto himself said he didn’t need to quote the blogger, because, well, “she is just a blogger.”

This incident has cast a shadow not only on the Senator’s integrity but also on the facts and arguments he used “against contraception over studies by the Health department and the World Health Organization which noted that artificial family planning is safe.” On one of the bloggers’ site is the disclaimer, which states information in posts are “not intended to substitute for the advice provided by your doctor or other health care professional.”

This is what I posted on my Facebook status about this:

poor research, citing others’ work without using attribution, condescending view on social media & bloggers = insult to legislation & fillipino people. the dignified thing to do — no, the right thing to do — is just admit you were wrong and correct your mistakes.

Collective knowledge, yes! But that’s not the same as passing someone’s work as your own, or purposely neglecting to credit its makers. In today’s world of shared knowledge production, hybrid media and mash-ups, it’s still important to give proper attribution. It’s just common decency. In Sotto’s case (and for everyone involved in legislation), it even goes beyond decency. Crediting your sources answers the call of transparency in governance. Cite your sources so that those with opposing views can also investigate it, especially if the fate of a bill as controversial and important as the RH Bill is in question.

This issue is not just about blogging, or copyright or giving proper attribution. This goes beyond social media. It’s about dignifying the process of legislation by making sure your research methods are sound, your facts correct,  and your analysis genuinely valuable and actionable.

Social density

How the Philippine online community responded to these events is an example of the power of social networks and the radical potential of social density.

Our digital technologies, which are social, real-time, decentralised and distributed, allow people in different places to connect with each other and synchronise their actions, in simple and fast ways, and in a widely-distributed manner. These may produce more weak than strong ties, but social density can help these weak ties produce action with stronger impact. Stowe Boyd writes: “increased density of information flow (the number of times that people hear things) and of the emotional density (as individuals experience others’ perceptions about events, or ‘social contextualization’) leads to a increased likelihood of radicalization…”

I think emotional density in these two cases played a bigger role in moving people to name the bully and scrutinise a Senator’s speech.

In the case of Mang Satur, it was a microcosm of Philippine society. On one corner, you have the entitled acting with impunity. On the other, the poor desperately keeping body and soul together.

In the case of Sotto, it was a reflection of the deep yearning for honesty in government institutions. His case comes at the heels of two controversial cases of plagiarism that both happened in 2010. “One involved Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo who allegedly lifted without citation from legal experts abroad in his decision on World War II comfort women. Businessman Manny Pangilinan in 2010 also admitted that parts of his speech before Ateneo De Manila Univerisity graduates have been copied from celebrities’ speeches.”

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