Press Release
December 16, 2021

How to unmask trolls?
Trolls, fake account users face up to 12-year imprisonment, P200K fine, Drilon says

With the proliferation of trolls, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon proposed a quick-fix solution to unmask trolls and fight the anonymity in cyberspace by requiring real-name and phone number upon creation of social media accounts.

Drilon introduced the said provision in the proposed SIM Card Registration Act which the Senate passed on third reading Thursday. The bill mandates the ownership registration of all sim cards in the country to "deter the proliferation of SIM card, internet or electronic communication-aided crimes, such as, but not limited to terrorism; text scams; unsolicited, indecent or obscene messages; bank fraud; libel; anonymous online defamation; trolling; hate speech, spread of digital disinformation or fake news."

Drilon expanded the measure to include the social media sector.

"This new provision will prevent anyone from making anonymous accounts online. We have to cure trolls that are spreading as fast as the virus that we are battling today. Troll is a virus that hides behind anonymity and continues to spread nothing but hatred and disinformation," Drilon said Thursday.

Section 5 of the proposed measure, which Drilon introduced, states that "all social media account providers shall require real-name and phone number upon creation of account."

"This provision is a solution to the anonymity that provides the environment for trolls and other malicious attacks to thrive in the age of social media," he added.

With Drilon's proposal to include social media in the proposed measure, trolls will soon face up to 12 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to P200,000 or both, along with those who use fictitious identities to register their SIM card.

Drilon said the practice of requiring a phone number to create an online account is already being done by other email providers such as Google's GMAIL where a number is required for the implementation of a two-step verification procedure.

The Philippines is home to millions of troll accounts. In 2019, "Facebook took down a network of accounts that were engaged in inauthentic behavior, Drilon noted.

He added that the proliferation of trolls gave rise to suspicions of state-sponsored troll farms, especially that even the Commission on Audit flagged the Presidential Communications Operations Office for hiring hundreds of "contract of service" personnel, which was way above the total number of its regular employees.

Section 10 of the bill provides the penalties, including for using or using fictitious identities to register SIM cards and social media accounts. The provision states: "The penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day to twelve (12) years, or a fine of up to two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00), or both, shall be imposed upon anyone who uses a fictitious identity to purchase and register a SIM card or social media account."

Drilon also proposed that social media providers, apart from telecommunication sector, shall be required to provide information obtained in the registration process only upon the issuance of a subpoena of a competent authority pursuant to an investigation of a sworn complaint that a specific mobile number or social media account was or is being used in the commission of a crime.

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