Drilon contemplates law requiring social media platforms to reveal identity of ‘trolls’


MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has asked for advice on a bill that would require social media platforms to reveal the identities of so-called “trolls” or anonymous online accounts.

During a Senate committee on constitutional amendments and code review on Thursday, December 9, Drilon said that while in mainstream media, people who make defamatory statements can be held accountable through defamation laws , anonymity on social networks allows impunity for trolls.

He explained that the proposed law would not regulate freedom of expression, but that it “would impose a liability”.

“During our hearings this morning, Mr. Chairman, I would like to seek the advice of our resource people on a bill that would require online social media platforms to reveal the identities of trolls. In other words… it’s the balance between freedom of expression and the responsibility for using that freedom, ”Drilon said.

He later added: “We believe there should be a process by which we can demand online social media platforms to remove those that are clearly defamatory, and if they fail to remove the account, [or the unjustified refusal to take down an account which clearly is being utilized to defame other people], then we impose a fine.

Need to define campaigns

Jason Cabañes, professor of communications at De La Salle University, suggested that one way to do this would be to regulate campaign finance. He said it would force those who hire digital activists to disclose the campaigns they commissioned, their cost, as well as who was involved.

“[The] Perhaps the sticking point is how we’ll define a campaign in our contemporary time, because I think a lot of our laws still treat campaigns like traditional TV advertising. But a lot of our campaigns now look very different and I think that needs to be factored into such a campaign finance regulatory policy, ”he said.

Drilon, however, said campaign finance laws are honored more “in violation than in compliance” or difficult to enforce. Cabañes said that even if people would find ways to get around this, the regulations would “add another layer” that would make it more difficult to conduct these kinds of campaigns.

“[I] agree that another way to do this is to open up that transparency and accountability to social media users. It doesn’t matter as long as there are also some very strong and strict standards in place that would say when social media platforms should be forced to do these things … be in place just to protect privacy as well. of users so that it is not unnecessarily compromised, ”Cabañes said.

Police hotline

Rob Abrams, Meta’s (formerly Facebook) law enforcement outreach manager for the Asia-Pacific region, said law enforcement in the Philippines is able to acquire information about user data from Facebook for “criminal cases which [meet] certain criterion. “

Regarding content takedowns that do not fall under criminal investigation but still violate community standards, Abrams said that while any user can report violations, he has specifically developed a direct reporting system with the Philippine National Anti-Cybercrime Group. Police (PNP).

“[They] receive a special email address just for them and they can flag content for takedown directly. And because it’s coming from a trusted government agency, these are given priority, ”Abrams said.

He said they have a more robust response when it comes to issues such as child safety, human trafficking and terrorism, but that defamation can be one of their “trickier issues” , mentioning the challenges in differentiating hate speech from criticism.

“If there is a speech issue where there is a call for violence, a threat to a senator or his or her family, anything that violates our community standards will be addressed,” Abrams said.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan, chairman of the committee, then said her daughter had been the subject of death and rape threats on social media. He asked if this would be covered by Facebook’s opt-out policy. Abrams responded that it would be “beyond withdrawal” and that they would release information to the police because it is a violation of the law.

“I’m sure a lot of others have been there who don’t hold higher positions, and that’s our concern. I can take care of myself, but what about ordinary people? [They] have no recourse. Perhaps this is another area Meta can look into, how do we extend the takedown policy and make it more accessible to others? Pangilinan said.

In the past, Facebook has suppressed a network linked to the PNP or the Philippine Army for violations of policies of coordinated inauthentic behavior. Police pages and accounts also have a history of sharing content from questionable and anonymously managed pages known for being red-marked and spreading false information.

The Senate committee suspended its session, to resume on December 15. – Rappler.com


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