Press Release
January 19, 2017


MANILA -- Seeking to stop the alarming spread of misinformation online, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan wants to penalize Facebook for fake news item it allows to be propagated on its pages.

In Philippine Senate Resolution (PSR) 271 filed late Wednesday afternoon, the new Liberal Party president said: "The propagation of fake news stories has become an effective weapon of several political operatives to influence public opinion and national discourse. As a result, the level and quality of public discourse have suffered. Discerning the truth from the lies has become more difficult every day as manipulation of information and blatant fabrication of stories have become increasingly rampant."

Pangilinan, who as a young lawyer gave free legal advice on television and radio, asked the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the proliferation of misinformation and fake news sites on social media platforms, particularly on Facebook.

"In this digital age, Facebook and other social media platforms play a crucial role in the practice of democracy. More than being an online platform, Facebook may be described as a de facto media company or publisher that should be responsible and accountable for the content it distributes and allows to be distributed, in order to protect the national discourse from fabricated and false news," he said.

Pointing out the Constitutional provision that recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building in Article II, Section 24, Pangilinan said: "There is a need to look at the systems that protect the freedoms accorded to all Filipinos by our Constitution, especially where those freedoms are being undermined by a surge in social media abuse through the propagation of falsehoods, defamation, character assassination, and national security threats. It is therefore in the interest of the State to protect the integrity of cyberspace so that it will become a tool for development, and not a tool for sowing dissent and virulent tribalism."

"Some are now considering social media as the fifth pillar of a democratic republic, as it plays a crucial role in the participation of citizens in governance," Pangilinan said. "We must also ensure that our people are well-equipped with media literacy skills so that they are able to discern what is factual and what is not."

Noting how fake news affected the outcome of the United States presidential election by outperforming real news during the final weeks of the campaign, the senator said: "The conversion of false stories into major news topics in this era of post-truth politics has become problematic not only in the Philippines, but also in other parts of the world."

In 2016 the Philippines had 59.2 million Internet users, with more than 22 million actively engaged on Facebook during the May national elections. Criticisms have been leveled on the role of the Internet and social media for the rampant spread of misinformation and fake news sites that may have influenced critical decision-making.

Pangilinan's resolution was inspired by German legislators who announced their intention to penalize Facebook for every post not properly moderated within 24 hours.

PSR 271 seeks to direct the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the proliferation of misinformation and fake news sites in social media platforms and to possibly amend the 2012 Cybercrime Law and other laws, in accordance with respect for freedom of speech and of the press.

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