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Stiff penalties vs creators, purveyors of fake news sought

The measure seeks fines and imprisonment of up to six years for creators and purveyors of fake news, which is increasingly becoming prevalent in social media. Jennifer Leahy/Facebook via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — The era of fake news may soon be over if a bill filed in the House of Representatives becomes a law.

The measure seeks fines and imprisonment of up to six years for creators and purveyors of fake news, which is increasingly becoming prevalent in social media.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, author of House Bill 6022, said yesterday his proposed law aims “to rid both the traditional and social media of fictitious or misleading reports that are being manufactured and passed on to the public as legitimate information.”

He said his bill “penalizes not only the creation of false content and its malicious distribution but also failure to remove such content once it has been published.”

Villafuerte said the enactment of the measure would encourage responsible and credible journalism, as well as create awareness of the harmful effects of spreading untruthful information.  

“Misleading and deceptive news can cause divisiveness, health hazards, security risks, panic and chaos to our nation, contrary to our constitutionally enshrined principle of adhering to a policy of peace and cooperation,” Villafuerte stressed.

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He added that while the age of the internet has “truly democratized free speech, it has also made it easier for people to create and disseminate false information.”

Under HB 6022, “fake news” is defined as any of the following: misquotation, false and/or inaccurate reporting of one’s statement; editing of an audio or video material that results in the distortion of facts and/or content; and purely fabricated content.         

The measure proposes the imposition of fines ranging from P1 million to P5 million and suspension of operations for one week to one month on mass media outlets found guilty of creating fake news.

Media outlets disseminating false content face fines of P500,000 to P1 million.

For social media users creating fake news, the proposed penalties are imprisonment of one day to six years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 depending on the gravity of the offense.

Social media users found guilty of disseminating false information would be fined P50,000 to P100,000.

Villafuerte said some countries have already enacted legislation to nip in the bud the relatively new phenomenon of fake news.

He cited Singapore, which he said passed a law that punishes a person who transmits or causes to transmit false information.

Canada has banned media outlets from disseminating misleading news, while Germany, Italy and the United States have initiated legislation to stop fake news, he said.

“While the responsibility of discerning lie from truth falls with the person consuming the information, it is a moral duty of the state to protect its citizens from such lies,” he said.

He added that banning fake news has become more relevant now that the country is among the world’s most virtually connected nations in the world, with seven million active social media users.

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