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Opinion

Bracing vs ‘info-demic’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

It’s been almost four months ago when Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan launched his personal battle against the so-called “army of trolls” in social media. Sen. Pangilinan filed last July 17 at the Department of Justice (DOJ) two separate cyber-libel complaints to deplore faceless “army of trolls” behind what he termed as “info-demic” raging in the Philippines.

The word ”trolls” evokes the Scandinavian folklore and children’s tales: antisocial, quarrelsome and slow-witted creatures which make life difficult for travellers. Now, the word “troll” refers to a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments, or other disruptive content.

These “trolls” operate their hideous online character assassinations under the cloak of anonymity. Using fictitious names, these “trolls” carry out their nefarious activities unbridled at the internet highway. A “troll farm” or “troll factory” is an institutionalized group of online “trolls” that seeks to influence political opinions and decision-making through patently and deliberate spreading of wrong information.

But the worst part of it, this “army of trolls” apparently get paid to oppress specific targets.

Featured guest in this week’s virtual news forum of our Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Sen. Pangilinan lamented he has yet to receive any update from the DOJ on the progress of their investigation into the cases. Or should we say lack of progress acting on these cyber-bullying complaint filed by an opposition leader.

This is why Pangilinan renewed appeals to his colleagues in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, to start as soon as possible their “inquiry in aid of legislation” sought under Senate Resolution No. 768. Filed also last July, which he co-signed, 12 senators called for an investigation on reports that public funds were being used on “troll farms” in spreading disinformation campaign online.

“This has to be a whole of nation approach. Government must step in and not fund ‘troll farms’ and disinformation,” Pangilinan called out. “There is a pending resolution and we hope that before the end of the year, the hearings will already begin,” he added. Pangilinan though noted at least ten sites dissing him and his family at the YouTube Channels have been taken down on their own. The other troll farms, he believes, have apparently made “private” their channels to hide their previous posts in public to avoid detection.

Named in his complaints was a top executive of Google Philippines and unidentified individuals behind two YouTube Channels for posting videos that allegedly maligned the Senator and his wife, popular singer-actress Sharon Cuneta. Pangilinan pointed to the persons behind the YouTube channels “Starlet” and “Latest Chika” for allegedly uploading libelous videos against him and his family. Pangilinan filed a similar complaint against Bernadette Nacario, country manager of Google Philippines, for her alleged failure to oversee the operations of YouTube, which is owned by Google.

In his complaint, Pangilinan claimed that the owners of the offending YouTube Channels violated Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, in relation to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. Nacario, on the other hand, violated Section 20 and Section 3 of the Rules and Regulations implementing RA 10175.

Pangilinan assailed as total lies the contents of the videos intended to destroy his reputation as a public servant, husband and father, and to destroy his relationship with his family. Among other rumors peddled, he cited, was Cuneta filed supposedly a case against him allegedly for physical abuse. The actress herself vehemently denied the rumors.

For the past 20 years of his marriage, Pangilinan fumed, these “troll farms” have been his most bitter critics feasting on him and his family. Upon checking with the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime, The Star was told they have forwarded Pangilinan’s complaints to the National Bureau of Investigation.

A news dispatch from Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday the high court of the European Union (EU) rejected Google’s appeal from being fined 2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) in the anti-trust suit filed against the American tech giant. The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s top competition watchdog, upheld EU regulators that found Google abused its massive online reach. The appeal stemmed from the 2017 ruling that punished Google for unfairly directing visitors to its own shopping service, Google Shopping, to the detriment of competitors.

Meanwhile, AP also reported the EU has started drafting new digital rules to rein in online services by making them more accountable for illegal goods and harmful content found on their platforms, with the threat of fines worth up to 10% of global annual revenue. Earlier this year, the AP report went on, the EC launched fresh anti-trust investigations into whether Google and Facebook are stifling competition in digital and classified advertising markets. Also under investigation are other American tech giants Apple over payments and Amazon over concerns of unfairly competing against independent merchants on its platform with its own products.

These developments should augur well for our own campaign here to instill discipline to these international digital operators lucratively earning from Philippine companies that place advertisements in their platforms. However, Pangilinan fears this “info-demic” targeting him might intensify now that he is currently among the candidates running in the May 2022 elections to become the next vice president (VP) of the country.

The Liberal Party (LP)-led opposition ranks fielded Vice President Leni Robredo as their presidential standard-bearer in tandem with Pangilinan as their VP bet. Likened to the unseen virus spreading the COVID-19 pandemic in our country, Sen. Pangilinan is bracing against this “info-demic” of “fake” news, black propaganda, and other campaign of lies unfiltered in social media.

KIKO PANGILINAN
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