Hontiveros renews call for law vs fake news peddlers

Senator Risa Hontiveros wants an official investigation on “troll farms” and fake news peddlers who spread misinformation online.

According to Hontiveros, it is the duty of the Senate “to protect the integrity of our government.”

“I will definitely support a bill that will hold producers of fake news accountable. Lalo na dahil nitong nakaraang kalahating dekada, apparently, taxpayer’s funds ay ginamit talaga para din mag-finance ng ganitong klaseng operation,” she said.

Back in July 2021, Hontiveros was among the senators who supported Senator Panfilo Lacson’s Senate Resolution No. 768, which called for an investigation on allegations that public funds were being spent on troll farms and fake social media accounts.

Hontiveros stressed that regulatory mechanisms should be imposed on platforms, such as social media entities, that fail to control the spread of fake news on their platforms.

“May responsibilidad ang mga kompanyang ito, at pati na rin tayong mga gumagamit sa websites o apps nila, na tumulong sa pagpigil ng pagkalat ng fake news. Lalo na, tulad ng sinabi ni Maria Ressa sa [speech n’ya sa] Oslo, ‘yung stakeholders na kikita sa social media business. They should be accountable,” she pointed out.

Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, then cited salient features of Senate Bill (SB) No. 2209 or the proposed Special Protections Against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) Law and SB No. 2449 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act of 2021.

“Dun sa anti-OSAEC bill, yung mga social media companies ay talagang dapat ring accountable — whether sa [paggamit sa] online sexual abuse and exploitation o human trafficking. Dun sa anti-trafficking law, ginawa rin naming accountable pati intermediaries, banks and others, na nagiging daluyan nitong dark transactions ng OSAEC and human trafficking at nagiging daluyan ng bayad para sa tao na parang gamit tayo at hindi tao,” she explained.

“So, it should be the same for fake news, for facilitating or enabling trolling,” she stressed.

The senator herself has been the target of fake news that questioned her credibility  and ridiculed her advocacies.

That being the case, Hontiveros hopes the next administration would find ways to “dismantle this cynical operation,” saying it is an “abuse of the conscientization of the citizens.”

The proliferation of fake news is a global phenomenon, with the United Nations (UN) referring to it as an “infodemic.” The UN is currently enlisting the help of businesses, as well as the media and journalists, to fight misinformation — most of which focuses on the equally volatile subject of COVID-19. To date, the UN has approved several anti-fake news initiatives in Africa, India, and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the European Union is also taking steps to fight fake news.  

“If other countries can support anti-fake news initiatives, then the Philippines can do the same thing,” said Hontiveros. “We cannot allow these practices to go unpunished. Gawin natin ang lahat para manaig ang katotohanan.”

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