Press Release
October 4, 2017

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Opening Statement
Senate public information committee hearing on fake news

I am sure that many of us begin the day the same way we end it: by checking our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

We check our FB text notifications before we check on our loved ones. And at night, instead of sharing stories over dinner, we share jokes on the family Viber group.

If these have become our daily routine, then most likely we've been waking up to and going to bed with news, some fake, mostly real, I think.

Someone once said that if it's fake, it isn't news--it's propaganda, misrepresentation, misinformation, or to put it more bluntly, outright lies. So I think that first, we should differentiate news from opinion.

The term "news" is defined as a "report of recent events". Opinion, on the other hand, is a "view or judgment formed about something that is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge."

Currently, the term "fake news" as used by the public, means a wide array of things--from false reports to propaganda and to true reports that have been spun out of proportion.

This nation is churning out fake news in an industrial scale that it seems that while manufacturing is down, fake news factories are booming. And that while agriculture output is low, that of troll farms is high.

Fake news has become so pervasive through the use of bots and trolls and these fake accounts are able sway public opinion, shape civic discourse, affect social interaction and influence government.

It is not only in politics that fake news is blurring the truth and deepening the divide, it has encroached in other fields as well. Fake news is the e-version of the budol-budol, which many of our people unable to distinguish fact from fiction fall victims to. It is not even farfetched that in the, future fake news can trigger wars.

Alam nyo mga kababayan, this internet is important to us. But it is also has its weaknesses which fake news has exploited.

First, broadband should have made us broadminded, but thanks to fake news it has kept many of us imprisoned in our own narrow political beliefs.

Hindi nga ba internet is deemed to be an instrument for "liberation technology," but now it is being used somehow to enslave people to a certain dogma.

Kaya nga ang sabi nila "fake news is in the eye of the beholder" who determines it through his colored lenses - dilaw, pula, o asul. Yan, mga kababayan ko ang resulta ng ating color-coded politics. Imbes alamin kung magaling ang isang ideya, ang unang tanong kaagad ay kung saang kampo galing yan.

Second, while the internet also promotes connectivity, it has sadly been used to erect firewalls within and among us that prevent dialogue dahil maraming natatakot baka ma-bully.

And when conversation does not happen, the forging of consensus so essential for democracy is affected.

Kaya nga hindi lang usaping legal, or political ang pagsusuri ng fake news phenomenon. Dapat din pag-aralan ang sociological impact nito.

Has fake news doomed civilized debate, turning it into shouting matches, dividing families and friends?

Has fake news created a cynical citizenry, distrustful of authority, and even our very institutions?

Has it embroiled us in a permanent state of cyberwar?

We also have to ask that while it is the role of each individual to vet sources and check facts, what is the role of the government in addressing the lack of news literacy? Should news literacy be required by schools? In Taiwan, schoolkids are now being taught media literacy in an effort to help them identify news from hoaxes.

Bagamat madali tayong magalit sa fake news, hindi madaling solusyonan ito. There are free speech considerations.

Media opposition to the government is not new. In fact, media is nicknamed the Fourth Estate or the Fourth Branch of government, because it is expected to perform the role of a watch dog; it is expected to provide a check against the abuses of the other branches of the state. A blogger should also not be penalized for his views.

But just how far can journalists or ordinary individuals go in speaking against the government?

Paano mo ituturo ang online do's and don'ts sa mahigit 100 milyong tao?

First, how far before free speech can be called libel?

Today, under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act., libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, is committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future, is considered a cybercrime offense.

The Penal Code, libel is committed when a person makes, against another, a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

In several cases, the Supreme Court held that for libel to hold water in the case of public officials or public figures, the "higher standard of actual malice" must be satisfied to attain conviction. Actual malice or malice in fact is committed "when the offender makes the defamatory statement that the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it is false or not." In proving actual malice, the burden of proof lies with the offended party.

Second, when people in authority habitually employ alternative facts that it fuels the fake news phenomenon, can they be held liable?

The phenomenon of junk news and its dissemination over social media platforms have transformed (some say destroyed) political debates.

It is important to ask these questions because unlawful means of publication and unlawful utterances is already penalized by Article 154[1] of the Penal Code.

Under our law, any person who printed, published or cause to be published as news any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State shall be punished. The same applies for any person who by the same means, or by words, utterances or speeches shall encourage disobedience to the law or to the constituted authorities or praise, justify, or extol any act punished by law.

Alam nyo po , nung pumasok ako sa pulitika ang sabi ko minoisturize ko na ang balat ko ng Teflon para hindi tumalab sa akin ang anumang puna.

Sabi ko sa sarili ko "The politician who complains against criticism is like a ship captain who complains about the sea." In short, par for the course.

Nang nagsimula ang online bashing, lalo na nung nakaraang halalan, ang sabi ko sa sarili ko , "The price of incumbency is eternal bashing ."

Pero lately napapansin ko kailangan nang may pushback sa mga maling balita, kasi apektado na ang ating demokrasya.

If unchecked, fake news cultivates a culture of lying. If purveyors are allowed to get away with their lies, they embolden government officials to also lie in order to escape accountability, crush dissent, and commit illegal acts with impunity.

If fake news is not challenged, it will create lynch mobs out of certain people, turning them into an army of character assassins, who can be unleashed, with just one meme, to destroy an idea, a person, or an institution.

At merong panganib din na ang maling online behavior ay siyang maging asta natin sa totoong buhay. Kung hahayaan natin yan, baka lumaki ang mga bata ngayon na intolerant sa pananaw ng iba, at madaling maniwala sa haka-haka.

We need to expose them to a kind of conversation that educates and enlightens, that relies on the truth, and not the kind that disrespect facts.

We need to teach them that that they can disagree without being disagreeable, that when arguing they should focus on substance and never on slurs.

In this hearing we will try to address these issues and more. If we want to regulate news, are we technologically capable of doing that? Will legislation possibly create a "chilling effect" on all of us?

In the same manner that we are considering punishing individual purveyors of fake news, shouldn't we also hold public officials who release wrong and misleading information accountable?

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