Senate wants social media platforms to reveal identity of trolls

Published December 9, 2021, 4:13 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday, Dec, 9 sought the opinion and guidance of the resource persons who attended the hybrid hearing of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision on a proposal that will compel all social media platforms to reveal the identity of trolls.

Drilon, who was a victim of libel in cyberspace, said revealing the identity of internet trolls could help establish a balance between the freedom of speech and the responsibility of the use of that freedom in the internet.

The former justice secretary stressed that that trolls just keep on hitting everybody they want to hit in social media and they have impunity because of the anonymity.

“In traditional media, we do not censor, but we make those responsible for defamatory language. We make them responsible under our revised penal code for defamation. In the development that we have because of technology, you cannot avail of this right because of the anonymity of the authors,” Drilon said during the hearing on Senate Resolution No. 953.

SR No. 953 directs the committee to conduct a review of the country’s existing criminal laws in light of the rise of social media platforms and the rapid advancement of technology.

Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, committee chairman, said despite technological advancements, “our laws should always protect us and our loved ones, our children, from those who abuse the openness of the internet by spreading disinformation, hate speech and undertake criminal activity using social media platforms.”

He said the hearing is being conducted to address critical gaps in the law since digital or network disinformation is not simply a personal concern but is a worldwide concern that requires governmental as well as stakeholder, corporate, civil society organization interventions.

In a statement, the Makati Business Club said that ‘’the business community has watched with concern how social media, media, and other platforms have been abused by multiple parties in recent years.

‘’They have been used to spread disinformation and hate speech, resulting in erroneous beliefs, confusion, and division. We are losing the trust and unity we need to work together to better our lives, livelihoods, and society especially amid the pandemic crisis.

‘’We watch with alarm how this abuse has spiked during this election season. We fear the damage may be long-lasting. The abuse comprises lies, personal attacks, trolling, misogyny, “red-tagging,” and many more, sometimes putting people at risk of physical harm. We call on political players to consider what they are doing to the country and to individuals, pledge not to engage in such abuse, and exhort their supporters to remain civil as well. We call on operators of social media and other platforms to consider what they are allowing to happen, and declare to their users and the public the steps they are taking to stop or curtail this,” the MBC said.

‘’For our part, we realize that the business sector plays a significant role here through advertising spending. While continuing to advocate and defend media freedom, we encourage businesses to evaluate the platforms they advertise in — including social media, messaging apps, broadcast, and print — in terms of whether and how much disinformation and hate speech they allow.”

The businessmen’s group stated: ‘’We acknowledge some of the platforms have taken steps to address this issue. We ask these platforms to more fully share with the public how they are addressing disinformation and hate speech, which may be a factor on where businesses feature their products and services, to reflect the values of their organizations.”

‘’We support ongoing efforts to create tools that businesses and advertisers can use to assist them in this evaluation in the near future, but commit to taking first steps now. Finally we call on our countrymen and women to evaluate political players as well as these media and communications platforms on these same terms, and use their votes and clicks to promote truth and civility in the coming elections,” the MBC added.