Purported “tech expert” and Manila Bulletin section editor Art Samaniego was the subject of criticisms from local netizens this week after claiming in an online interview that the right to free speech of controversial pastor Apolonio Quiboloy was violated when YouTube terminated the channels of entities owned by or affiliated with him.
As reported by the local news media, the Google-owned video-sharing site has shuttered the YouTube channels of Quiboloy’s Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ church (KOJC) and his media outlet Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).
According to the reports, the online channels were axed for violating YouTube’s community guidelines. In a report published by the Philippine Star, the newspaper quoted a YouTube spokesman, who said it acted in compliance with US laws.
“Google is committed to compliance with applicable US sanctions laws and enforces related policies under its Terms of Service. After review and consistent with these policies, we terminated the… KOJC & SMNI YouTube channels,” the report said, quoting the YouTube spokesperson.
While the Google executive did not specifically mention it, it is widely believed that the main reason for the shutdown is due to the fact Quiboloy is a wanted fugitive by the US government for criminal offenses involving sex and labor trafficking. The US treasury department has also imposed sanctions on him, blocking all his properties in the US.
Online news site Rappler reported it was gaming vlogger Mutahar “Muta” Anas who alerted YouTube regarding the presence of Quiboloy’s online channels, asking the tech company to help the US Federal Bureau of Investigation track down the pastor.
But in an interview with SMNI this week, Samaniego said YouTube’s action was “unfair” as it impinged on Quiboloy’s freedom of speech.
This statement did not sit well with social media users, among them prominent blogger Noemi L. Dado, who pointed out that freedom of speech is not absolute, given Quiboloy’s current predicament.
Excuse me. Tech expert or not . Freedom of speech is not absolute . In the context of human trafficking, freedom of speech is not absolute because speech that promotes or facilitates human trafficking can be considered a form of violence against women. This is because it… https://t.co/KwKTkUw9Cd— Noemi L. Dado (@momblogger) July 13, 2023
A Twitter user named Duterte Watchdog presents: Sic semper tyrannis also joined the fray, telling Samaniego, who is from Davao like former president Rodrigo Duterte, to brush up on his knowledge on the concept of freedom of speech.
Hello @artsamaniego. Your statement on the Youtube ban of Quiboloy and SMNI is a is a awkward piece of knowledge-free twaddle. You believe ´s about freedom of speech? So sweet.— Duterte Watchdog presents: Sic semper tyrannis (@DuterteWatchdog) July 13, 2023
I recommend the lecture of Executive Order 13818 of December 20, 2017 before you "believe" next time.
Incidentally, Samaniego is the same writer who published the discredited story on Comelec hacking just before the May 2022 elections. The content of that story was denied by the poll body, as well as by the National Bureau of Investigation, Department of ICT, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, and the National Privacy Commission.