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Senate approves bill requiring SIM card registration with provision to 'unmask trolls'

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Senate approves bill requiring SIM card registration with provision to 'unmask trolls'
Subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate unanimously approved on third and final reading Thursday a bill that would mandate all public telecommunications entities to require subscribers to fill out a registration form and produce a valid identification card before purchasing a SIM card. 

At their final plenary session of the year, senators voted 22-0-0 to approve Senate Bill No. 2395 or the proposed SIM Card Registration Act which seeks to eradicate criminal activities aided by mobile phones, the internet or other electronic communication devices.

These criminal activities include terrorism, text scams, unsolicited indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, trolling, hate speech, and the spread of digital disinformation or fake news. 

“At the core of this measure is the promotion of security in the country. It is timely and fitting given that various technology-aided crimes are rampant in the country today,” the bill's sponsor, Sen. Grace Poe, said in the explanation of her vote for the measure.

"It is high time that we beef up our own infrastructures to address these threats to security."

The bill penalizes the use of fictitious identities to register SIM cards, spoofing, and the unauthorized sale of registered SIM cards.

Drilon: Trolls, fake account users face up to 12-year imprisonment, P200K fine

An amendment to the bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon would obligate social media platforms to require users to register their real names and phone numbers before creating an account.

"This new provision will prevent anyone from making anonymous accounts online," Drilon said in a statement. 

"We have to cure trolls that are spreading as fast as the virus that we are battling today," he added. "Troll is a virus that hides behind anonymity and continues to spread nothing but hatred and disinformation."

Drilon at a recent hearing on the rise of social media platforms tried to get representatives from Facebook to commit to disclose the identities of anonymous users who make defamatory statements. He said this would give those on the receiving end of malicious posts the ability to seek legal recourse. 

If this bill is enacted, Drilon said so-called trolls could 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.

A counterpart measure, without the social media provision inserted by Drilon, was approved on final reading by the House of Representatives earlier this month. 

A bicameral conference committee will have to meet to reconcile disagreeing provisions. Their committee report would then have to be ratified by both chambers of Congress before the measure can be transmitted to the president's desk for approval. —  Bella Perez-Rubio 

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