SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go is denouncing the spate of misinformation on social media after Facebook released a statement in which the social media platform revealed it is investigating reports of suspicious activity such as the proliferation of dummy accounts.
“Mapaparusahan ang mga nagkakalat ng fake news dahil sa paglabag ng batas. Sisiguraduhin namin na mapanagot kayo sa mga kalokohang ginagawa ninyo,” he sternly warned.
Go stressed that Facebook and other social media platforms should remain a safe space for everyone to converse and exchange views.
“We should not tolerate those who use it to mislead people, spread fake news, conduct anomalous activities and take advantage of the vulnerabilities of fellow Filipinos, especially in times of crises,” he said.
Go also voiced support for the Department of Justice’s decision to launch an investigation with the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to crack down on these alleged possible cases of cybercrimes.
“Lalo na ngayon na may hinaharap tayong krisis, dapat maparusahan ang mga gumagawa ng kalokohan tulad ng maraming nagsisilabasang mga walang katapusang fake news,” said Go.
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar also said that concerned government agencies, like the NBI and the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, have already been directed to look into the matter. He added that the National Privacy Commission has been in touch with Facebook to conduct an investigation and share significant findings with the agency.
“We ask the public to do their part and be conscientious and vigilant. Please report fake accounts and do not fall prey to unsubstantiated posts from unverified accounts. Our office continues its programs, such as Dismiss Disinformation and Youth for Truth, meant to quell fake news and combat misleading information,” Andanar said.
“We urge everyone to be responsible social media users and warn those who commit malicious acts of fake accounts and fake news creation, that you can be made accountable for your actions, as such actions are prohibited and punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act,” the PCOO head added.
On Monday, June 8, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also confirmed that the Department of National Defense has also reached out to Facebook on the matter. “It’s a cause for concern. It creates discordant voices among the people which should not be there,” he said.
Senator Go for his part also warned those responsible for anomalous activities using social media that the government shall not tolerate such acts and they will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
“Lahat po tayo nagiging biktima ng fake news. Hindi ko maisip-isip na sa kabila ng kinakaharap natin ngayon, napag-isipan pa ng ilang mga tao na magpakalat ng mga malisyosong kasinungalingan o manlinlang ng kapwa nilang Pilipinong naghihirap rin,” he said.
Go appealed to the public to make use of social media to help fellow Filipinos instead of wasting their time to cause misinformation, especially in this time of crisis.
“Gamitin n’yo nalang sana ang oras ninyo para tumulong at magmalasakit. Huwag ninyo sayangin sa pagkalat ng kasinungalingan o sa panloloko ng mga tao. Huwag kayo gumawa ng problema at dumagdag sa pasakit ng bayan,” Go said.
“Sa kasinungalingang kinakalat ninyo, hindi naman po gobyerno ang sinisira ninyo kundi ang kapwa ninyong Pilipino at ang sarili ninyong bayan. Lahat tayo naghihirap at lahat naman tayo gustong malampasan ang krisis na ito. Unahin nalang sana natin na pagserbisyohan ang kapwa nating Pilipino,” Go also stressed in past statements.
Go emphasized that while criticisms are welcome and are part of the exercise of democracy, Filipinos must make an effort to verify information they encounter and take part in creating a well-informed citizenry.
“Social media should be a platform where freedom of speech can be exercised as part of a democratic society. But let us do this in a responsible manner. Welcome ang mga bumabatikos na magbigay ng kanilang rekomendasyon sa paraan kung saan pwede lahat maging parte ng solusyon at hindi dumagdag sa problema,” said Go.
Recently, in a statement posted on his Facebook page, Go also warned scammers using his name and that of the President to purchase and sell medical supplies.
“I am urging the Executive Branch, particularly the National Bureau of Investigation, to investigate, initiate filing of cases, and arrest corrupt officials and private individuals who are taking advantage of this situation to make money,” he said.
“Huwag po tayo magpaloko. Kung walang magpapaloko, hindi mananaig ang mga manloloko. Sa mga nangsasamantala lalo na sa panahon ng krisis, huwag kayo mag-alala. Aabutan rin kayo ng hustisya,” Go added.
To intensify the country’s fight against misinformation and scams especially in times of public health emergencies, Go has recently filed Senate Bill 1528 which seeks to amend Republic Act 11332, also known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act”.
Aside from strengthening the country’s efforts in disease surveillance and epidemiologic investigation, the proposed measure also seeks to hold liable those who are involved in prohibited acts during a health crisis, such as taking advantage of the situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar illegal acts.
It also prohibits creating, perpetuating, or spreading false information on social media and other platforms. This includes spreading information clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion.