Sotto’s anti-fake news bill penalizes fictitious account holders, supporters

A bill filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III is will make it a crime for someone to maliciously create or spread false information in websites and social media platforms.

Senate President Tito Sotto

Senate Bill No. 9, otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Publication and Proliferation of False Content on the Philippine Internet, Providing Measures to Counteract its Effects and Prescribing Penalties Therefor”, imposes penalties up to P2 million or imprisonment for violators.

A Social Weather Survey conducted during the 4th Quarter of 2017 and 1st Quarter of 2018, showed that 67 percent of Filipino Internet users say there is a serious problem of fake news in the internet.

“Filipinos have fallen prey to believing most of the click-baits, made-up quotes attributed to prominent figures and digitally altered photos. This bill seeks to protect the public from the adverse effects of false and deceiving content online,” Sotto said.

“It also seeks to promote responsible use of the Internet,” he added.

Under the proposed legislation, any person found guilty of knowingly creating or publishing false information to mislead the public shall be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than P300,000 or both.

Persons found guilty of using a fictitious online account or website in creating and or publishing false information to mislead the public face imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than P500,000 or both.

Any person who knowingly offered or provided his or her expertise to create or publish a content containing information to deceive the public, whether it is done for profit or not, shall be imprisoned and/or slapped with a fine of P200,000 or both.

According to the bill, any person who finances an activity which has for its purpose the creation or publication of online sites containing false information face imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding P1,000,000 or both.

Any person who fails to comply with the government’s order to take down the content containing the false information, issue necessary corrections to the published content containing false information or block users’ access to its websites and social media platforms face imprisonment and/or a P2,000,000 fine or both.

Once the bill is passed into law, the Department of Justice-Office of Cybercrime shall have the authority to issue the rectification order, takedown order or block access order. The Cybercrime Division of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) meanwhile, will be tasked with enforcing the provisions of the proposed law.

Sotto said “false information continues to circulate and is becoming prevalent on the internet globally.”

Worldwide, countries had begun to introduce anti-fake news laws. According to Reuters, Singapore has proposed a law that would require social media sites like Facebook to carry warnings on posts the government deems false and remove comments against public interest such as threats to security, foreign relations, electoral integrity and public perception on the government and state institutions.

On the other hand, the Reuters article said Russia has signed a law last month imposing tough fines for its citizens who spread what authorities regard as fake news or who show “blatant disrespect” for the state online while France passed two anti-fake news laws last year to rein in false information during election campaigns. Likewise, Germany passed a law last year for social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to quickly remove hate speech.

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