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Senate resumes probe on disinformation infrastructure this week

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate resumes probe on disinformation infrastructure this week
The inquiry was prompted by Senate Resolution 953 filed last year by Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who both cited the need to amend the country’s criminal laws to address what he described as the rampant online disinformation.
STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws will resume this week its inquiry into the effects of the rise of social media platforms and rapid advances in their technology.

The inquiry was prompted by Senate Resolution 953 filed last year by Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who both cited the need to amend the country’s criminal laws to address what he described as the rampant online disinformation.

The resolution stated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was passed when social media platforms and other applications “were still smaller than the giants they are today.”

Aside from SR 953, 12 senators also earlier filed SR 768 seeking an inquiry into reports that public funds were being spent on troll farms that spread disinformation, misinformation and fake news in social media sites.

Pangilinan, who chairs the committee, earlier warned that “disinformation, misinformation, hate speech, and mass deception via digital platforms are the COVID-19 variants of the digital world.”

“Disinformation, misinformation, hate speech, and mass deception through coordinated mass distribution of fake news are digital wildfires, which destroy trust and confidence in our democracy and democratic institutions such as the independent and free press,” he said at the first hearing in December.

“Professionals engaged in delivering news, content, and information through a free and independent press must not be targets of disinformation and hate speech. We need them to do their jobs conscientiously to enable our democracy to function optimally,” he said.

Maria Ressa, the first Filipino to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, will attend the hearing scheduled on Wednesday where she is expected to discuss the disinformation infrastructure.

Other confirmed attendees will be representatives from giant online sellers like Shopee and Lazada to answer questions on allowing fake news to be advertised on their social media assets as well as executives from Google and Facebook, now known as Meta, to discuss how their platforms are fundamentally changing to reduce, if not eliminate, the massive disinformation going on online.

Representatives from local advertising groups like Ads Standards Council, which is the regulatory body of the advertising industry in the country; Philippine Association of National Advertisers; 4As, which is comprised of advertising agencies; and Media Specialists Association of the Philippines, which is involved in branding, marketing and advertising, are also expected to attend the hearing.

Also invited to the hearing are broadcast journalist Joseph Morong, social media expert and public relations practitioner Nic Gabunada, columnist and convernor of Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation John Nery, and Publicis Group’s Raymond Arrastia.

Officials from the Department of Justice and Presidential Communications Operations Office were also sent invitations to the hearing.

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