Senator Francis Pangilinan has asked the Senate to investigate the proliferation of fake Facebook accounts that use identities of students, government officials, journalists, and other users, stressing such online acts could imperil one’s security and privacy.
Sen. Leila M. de Lima, on the other hand, has urged her colleagues to investigate the reported use of government social media platforms to spread false and inaccurate information meant to mislead the public and undermine the free press.
In filing Senate Resolution 444, Pangilinan called on the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry to find out if there is a need to amend Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and other pertinent laws to make them more responsive to the situation.
Pangilinan said the inquiry would also help determine “possible regulation of social media platforms, in accordance with the policy that respects the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos guaranteed by the Constitution.”
“There is a need to look into our existing laws to increase the extent of liability and possible regulation of service providers or content hosts such as Facebook and other social media platforms,” Pangilinan said in the measure.
“Legislation must be carefully crafted so as to balance the rights and freedoms accorded to every Filipino by the Constitution and the public interest to be protected from dangerous acts online,” he added.
In the resolution, he noted that the sudden surge of dummy Facebook accounts came following the protests staged on the streets and online against the anti-terrorism bill.
“Some Facebook users reported to have received threats from said dummy accounts using their names. The threats even go as far as calling said users ‘terrorists’,” he said.
The social media giant has vowed to look into the suspicious activity on its platform, even as the Department of Justice announced it will also conduct its own investigation.
“We should not be utterly defenseless against social media manipulation and threats. We must use our laws to fight the fakes online,” Pangilinan said.
Use of gov’t online accounts
In filing Senate Resolution No. 418, De Lima underscored the need to craft legislation that will hold the purveyors of false information accountable for their wrongdoings and ensure that freedom of speech and of the press remain robust amid a global health crisis.
“With Filipinos spending most of their time on social media, [i]t is undeniable that online platforms such as Facebook now plays an important role in dissemination of information and it is so powerful that it can actually trample on Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press in our country,” she said.
“As co-equal branch of government, Congress, through relevant and appropriate legislation, must end this unscrupulous practice of using government platforms to disseminate baseless, biased and misleading information online and to target members of the media which creates a strong culture of online impunity,” she added.
Recently, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) Facebook page posted a series of infographics accusing ABS-CBN of franchise violations.
The same page accused in a separate post that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was spreading fake news in her interview with ABC News where she mistakenly said that ABS-CBN has 11 million workers instead of 11,000.
“This is not the first time that government platforms were used to proliferate misinformation and were likewise used to target members of the media,” said the lawmaker.
The NTF-ELCAC’s deleted posts were however notably shared by the official and verified Facebook accounts of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) which both enjoy wide followings.
Despite the patent negligence exhibited in the erroneous post of PCOO, De Lima wondered why the agency deemed it “unnecessary” to investigate the re-sharing of an “unvetted” social media post on the ABS-CBN closure after it has identified the person responsible for the online mishap.
“The erring agencies and government officials and employees must be held accountable for their acts. [T]hey must be reminded that their operations are fueled by taxpayer’s money and they must use it effectively and efficiently to avoid wastage of public funds,” she said.
“It is the interest of the State to protect its people from falsehood and defamation in our official social media accounts and in all government platforms, done under the color of authority by any government agency, official, or employee, who are tasked to enrich the quality of public disclosure on all matters of governance,” she added.