Philippines Report

Poe: Banning Facebook will ‘spark a revolution’

Senator Grace Poe has clarified that she is not seeking to ban Facebook in the country.

Poe, on Thursday, called as “fake news” the claims circulating online that she proposed the prohibition of the widely popular social media website in the Philippines amid a probe on the spread of false information.

“Yan ang fake news. Hindi totoo yan (That’s fake news. that’s not true). First of all, that’s counterproductive…Yun talaga ang disinformation (That is indeed disinformation),” Poe said in a TV interview.

The senator chairs the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media which is investigating the proliferation of fake news and information online, especially in social media sites.

A video clip being shared on Facebook, mostly by supporters of President Duterte, showed Poe asking during the Public Information panel’s second hearing last Tuesday if it would be possible for the government to ban Facebook.

 

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“Let’s say, can you block a particular company like Facebook from being accessed in the Philippines. I know they do this in China. Do we have the capability?” Poe, who was asking a law expert in the hearing, said in the clip.

But Poe, on Thursday, said the video was “spliced” to make it appear that she wanted to ban the use of Facebook. She said it may have been made to discredit her and the ongoing hearings on the proliferation of fake news.

“Yung mga lumabas [sa social media], syempre hindi natin pipigilan. Ako mismo nasa Facebook, yung mga anak ko nasa Facebook. Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang kumukuha ng balita mula sa Facebook (Of course, we cannot stop what gets published in social media. I, myself, am using Facebook as well as my children. Many of our countrymen get their news from Facebook),” Poe explained.

During the hearing last Jan. 30, Poe was asking Professor JJ Disini of the University of the Philippines-College of Law about the extent of the government’s reach in blocking hate speech and expressions online that border on criminal liability.

 

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“Not that we’re going to do this. I’ll be the first to disagree if they do. But let’s say, can you block a particular company like Facebook from being accessed in the Philippines? Of course that would spark a revolution and we know that. But what I’m saying is this: They’re banking on their popularity but we should also assert their accountability to us,” Poe had actually said, referring to the accountability of the social media giant for its failure to address offensive speech.

In relation to this, she appealed to netizens to make a critical examination of the information they receive and “cross-check” facts from lies.

“We should be able to inform the citizens that they should be able to cross-check information that they get online. We’ve come up also with our own video of the proceedings, kasi it was spliced. If you’re conscientious enough and you really want to find the truth,…kasi kapag ayaw mong malaman ang katotohanan madali namang kalimutan yan,” Poe said Thursday.

Poe has compelled the attendance of Facebook executives in the next hearing to discuss the “algorithms” that it uses to control what information appears in a user’s news feed.

“What we’re trying to do is how we can encourage Facebook to be able to cooperate with us,” Poe emphasized.

She said governments in the European Union have initiated a crackdown on fake news and compelled social media sites to flag illegal, hateful, defamatory, and racist expressions.

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