Press Release
January 30, 2018

Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media
Hearing on Fake News
Senate Session Hall
30 January 2018

This is our second hearing on a very contentious and complicated issue.

Sa ating bayan, totoo yung kasabihan na, "Truth has become such a valuable and important commodity, that it is immediately surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

Today, we want to focus on how to stop the spread of fake news and determine whether legislation is the proper remedy. In line with this, we will tackle three issues:

(1) The extent of responsibility and accountability of bloggers and journalists in spreading misinformation; and

(2) The effect of online platforms like Facebook in shaping public opinion and facilitating the spread of misinformation; and

(3) The accountability of government for the use or misuse of resources in spreading disinformation or suppressing the truth.

A UP Professor defined fake news as "manufactured information or disinformation which is designed to mislead, and is purposely spread in a strategic way to persuade."

It has also been called, "cyber propaganda" or "computational propaganda," because these are online articles that appear to be factual news, but are actually paid for and designed to manipulate opinions.

Using social media to spread fake news

Sa mga artikulong nasulat ukol sa Fake News, makikita natin na may dalawang aspeto ito. The content and the medium. Someone once said that, "Content is fire and social media is gasoline." Put the two together and you have highly combustible material.

To illustrate, where do you get your news? Anong unang ginagawa mo paggising mo? Hindi ba tinitingnan mo yung news feed mo sa Facebook?

At siyempre, dahil pinost ang isang article ng kaibigan mo--kahit na title pa lang nababasa mo--naniniwala ka agad at shine-share mo ito.

A 2015 report by the National Telehealth Center, stated that 42 percent of 102 million Filipinos were active users of social media, with Facebook as the most actively used social media platform.

What we don't know or refuse to recognize is that Facebook can act like an echo chamber, reflecting back only news that you like.

Binabasa ng Facebook ang mga likes at dislikes mo at websites na madalas na pinupuntahan mo. Tapos base dito, namimili siya ng balita na ipapakita niya sa news feed mo.

Hindi ba kayo nagtataka kung bakit itong kaibigan mo sa Facebook na matagal mong hindi nakikita, laging lumalabas sa news feed mo at sa madalas, pareho kayo ng pinaniniwalaan.

Ang problema, dahil paulit-ulit na lang ang nakikita natin, hindi na tayo nagiging mapanuri. Tinatanggap na lang natin ang impormasyon kasi inaakala natin na yun din ang pinaniniwalaan ng karamihan ng tao na nakapaligid sa atin.

Facebook cannot attend today due to internal organization changes. We have received their position paper which states that they make use of products and have partnerships and programs to promote authentic communications and stop fake news. Based on their letter, it appears that their efforts are lacking since admittedly, they do not delete false news from the platform that was created with authentic accounts.

Sayang wala sila dito kasi maipapaliwanag sana nila kung ano ba ang mga partnership programs at products nito.

Though social media is a fun and wonderful invention, it can be used to manufacture popularity. Ang hindi alam ng karamihan sa atin, ay may tinatawag na "web robots" o "bots" na nakaprograma para linlangin tayo sa pamamagitan ng pagkakalat ng pekeng balita gamit ang mga pekeng account.

It could influence the audience to elect a certain candidate, or reject another one. In fact, today we have some guests who will share their experience on how social media was used in the last elections.

In other words, approval that is manufactured by bots, is just as bad as votes that are bought--both of them undermine the essence of our democracy.

The danger of online manipulation is that it blocks the flow of real feedback from real people, which is essential in improving and perfecting public policy and programs.

For instance, do we know how many EJKs have been committed in the past year? How many are drug-related cases? Who will tell us the real numbers? Iba-ibang figures, iba-ibang sites, may official na galing mismo sa PNP pero hindi necessarily na yun ang ginagamit. So kahit na mismo tayo dito, kapag gumagawa tayo ng research, kailangan munang tawagan ang PNP, kailangan natin tawagan ang isang ginagalang na publication. Pero paano kapag ikaw ay isang ordinaryong mamamayan at sinabi sa iyo na 100 libo pero yun ang lumalabas sa feed mo.

Thus, fake news has two parts. I mentioned the first one, the medium. The second part is the content. The people behind that content, the journalists and the bloggers, are also responsible for the spread of fake news. We cant really say just bloggers, some of them are mainstream journalists.

In our last hearing, some bloggers claimed that their posts were personal expressions or mere opinions and are therefore not subject to a journalist's code of ethics. In my view, bloggers are not above libel laws.

If a blogger passes on information that he claims are facts, but which later turn out to be false, we should be able to hold him accountable.

And though we support a person's right to freedom of expression, once that writer defames the subject of his article, that writer must be held liable in accordance with our laws.

You cannot just attack a person without basis, and then hide behind the skirt of free expression. I think one must have the courage to stand by what he has written and posted publicly.

Vigilance against silencing of dissent

Aside from bloggers and journalists, there is another player in the social media arena--the government.

In other countries, authoritarian regimes have used public resources to spread misinformation, silence dissent, and slander opponents through social media.

Aanhin mo ang batas na nagsusulong sa Freedom of Information, kung pekeng balita rin naman ang ibibigay sa'yo ng gobyerno?

Government regulation that borders on intimidation and harassment of journalists is another means of suppressing the truth. Let us remember, the constitution gives the people the right to information and protects freedom of the press.

Ito na ba ang kinahinatnan ng bayan natin ngayon? Hostage ng disinformation? Are we now in a permanent state of civil cyberwar, the kind which gives no quarter to other ideas, and is intolerant of other views?

Whether legislation is the key

In our last hearing, there was a proposal to regulate fake news through legislation. However almost all participants , including me, expressed alarm that a new law could lead to censorship.

Congress cannot legislate thought control. I believe that this destructive and divisive phenomenon can only be addressed by a cocktail of solutions, the most potent of which is through an educated and vigilant citizenry, and a government which must cease to be the greatest enabler of manufactured information.

As Chair of this Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, we must explore all possible solutions to this new problem that plagues our community.

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