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Co-founder & CEO of Rappler, Journalist, Author, and Freedom Advocate. 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.


Maria Ressa co-founded Rappler, the top digital-only news site that is leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines. As Rappler’s CEO, Maria has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the previous Filipino government headed by Rodrigo Duterte and forced to post bail ten times to stay free. Rappler’s battle for truth and democracy is the subject of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival documentary, A Thousand Cuts.

In October 2021, Maria was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

In her talks, Maria connect the dots as to how social media and recent technological developments often deceives and entrenches political power, a dilemma that we all face.

For her courage and work on disinformation and ‘fake news,’ Maria was named one of Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time’s Most Influential Women of the Century.

Before co-founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN’s Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before moving to Indonesia and opening the network’s Jakarta bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. That was when she returned to Manila as the senior vice president in charge of ABS-CBN’s multimedia news operations, managing almost a thousand journalists for the largest news organization in the country.

Maria’s most recent book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator, was released in November 2022 and has been translated into 20 languages with more to come in 2024. It is an urgent cry for readers worldwide to recognize and understand the dangers to our freedoms before it is too late.

She is an inaugural Carnegie Distinguished Fellow at Columbia University’s newly launched Institute of Global Politics, where she leads projects related to artificial intelligence and democracy. In July 2024, she will join the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as a professor of professional practice.

Maria focuses critical attention on the breakdown of our global information ecosystem and how interconnected communities of action can hold the line to protect democratic values. She now travels the world speaking to organizations of all kinds on democracy, how to keep it, and freedom of the press.

How to Stand up to a Dictator, Maria’s third book, is an urgent cry for readers worldwide to recognize and understand the dangers to our freedoms before it is too late.

Translated into 18 languages, How to Stand up to a Dictator is now available in the U.K. through Penguin Books and available worldwide via Harper Collins.

Maria now travels the world speaking to organizations of all kinds on freedom of the press, democracy, corporate governance and the effects of social media on democracy.

Talking Points

Technology’s Impact on democracy

Social media companies have become the dominant source of news and information. The distributors of news and information gain power. To grow and increase power, the platforms require continuously increasing viewers which drives advertising revenue.

Social media platforms have discovered that pushing viewers to the extreme left or right increases engagement which increases ad revenue. To achieve this, the platforms develop algorithms designed to spread lies, laced with hate and anger.

Technology, once heralded as an enabler, is now the destroyer. How can we re-orient social media platforms to bring us together rather than divide us?

In this talk, Maria explains how we went off the rails but, more importantly, how we can right the train.

The Fight for Democracy

In this talk, Maria discusses how today’s style of leadership, us against them, sexism, and misogyny has given everyone to be their worst selves in many ways.

Democracies rely on elections but as we’ve been manipulated before the elections, where’s the freedom of will? Without free will, we are simply carrying out the wishes of the manipulators. How do we protect democracy when surrounded by manipulation?

Maria describes the four-layer pyramid that was successfully executed in the most recent Philippines election:

Hashtag facts through social and traditional media
The Mesh of civil society, NGOs, human rights, and business groups
Academia research groups
Legal groups from the left, right, and center working together
This is the time to act. Don’t bury your head in the sand. This is an existential moment and we either fight for our democracy or we lose our rights.
We had such an amazing time with Maria and our dean and students were absolutely delighted to have quality time with her! It was so wonderful connecting, discussing, and listening to her. She’s amazing! The students who met with her were so passionate and inspired by her. The day was a huge success! Duke University

We've never experienced something more meaningful, raw, thought-provoking as the session with Maria Ressa. She is a very rare combination of grit, passion, purpose, charm, and conviction. She is also a gentle force to reckon with, and is not only a delight to speak to, but expects to be challenged in a conversation. Only someone that open, intelligent, considered, and enlightened can do that. I would bring Maria in again in a heartbeat.

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