By Ben Rosario
The proposed “take down clause” that would allow government to remove social media content deemed libelous or seditious is steadily gathering support in the House of Representatives.
Ako Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin welcomed his colleagues’ backing for the passage of a bill, which called for stronger government control on social media postings in order to protect citizens and the state itself against statements, videos, artwork, and other materials that are grievously damaging yet false and misleading.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves said he will re-file in the upcoming 18th Congress a similar bill, insisting that such measure has become vital to curb abuses committed on social media. According to him, social media accounts must be made traceable to a person, company, or entity.
Teves noted that his original proposal in the 17th Congress subjected him social media bashing.
Garbin, a Senior Deputy Minority Leader, called for the passage of a measure providing for a “take down clause” that will allow government, without the need for court order, to demand the immediate removal of social media content that are libelous, seditious, defamatory, and/or contrary to any provision of existing laws.
He said the approval of this bill and similar measures has become imperative in instilling social and legal responsibility on social media platform creators and operators.
The Bicolano solon also cited the deaths and self-inflicted physical harm on victims via the “Momo Challenge” and “Blue Whale Challenge” online as among the justifications of his proposal.
In a related development, Garbin has asked the House Committee on Information and Technology to summon Peter Joemel Advincula alias “Bikoy” to facilitate a congressional probe on the uploading of highly-damaging yet unproven allegations against members of the Duterte family and other prominent personalities in business and politics.
In filing House Resolution (HR) No. 2585 that proposed the inquiry, Garbin also urged the House panel to ensure the appearance of YouTube and Facebook officials to explain the reasons behind their failure to take down the “Ang Totoong Drug List” (The Real Drug List) series – the controversial video series uploaded by Bikoy at the height of the mid-term election campaign.
Garbin pointed out that Bikoy succeeded in maligning and discrediting the “good name, honor and reputation of the individuals” by implicating them to an alleged drug ring, which he claimed to be a member of.
Bikoy later denied any truth behind the contents of the video series.
Garbin said the Bikoy videos maliciously hurled false accusations against members of President Duterte’s family and other personalities, including Elizaldy Co, owner of Misibis Bay resort, a five-star luxury hotel and resort in Albay.
Tagged as the leader of a drug syndicate, Co was also accused in Episode 5 of Ang Totoong Narco List of designating at the popular tourist destination “the central house facility where a shabu laboratory is located.”
“Mr. Co is a victim of an unprovoked, unjustified and libelous attack against his honor, character, reputation, and decent standing in our society,” stressed Garbin.
Garbin further said that Co’s creditworthiness was placed under suspicion by banking and financial institutions after his good name and reputation were tarnished by the false contents of the social media posts.
“In fact, one bank, upon learning about the video, immediately suspended the processing of his pending application for a significant amount of loan,” the party-list solon lamented.
Damage has been done
Garbin says that Bikoy’s claim against Misibis Bay is clearly negated by the fact that it was chosen by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Committee to be the venue of its ministerial telecommunications meeting.
However, the world-class resort “encountered a series of booking cancellations, even on its peak season” as a result of the libelous videos.
Garbin stressed that social media platforms such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook owe it to the public to confirm the veracity of the statements and videos posted within its space.
“The social media platforms need to develop security features and/or filtering practices in order to regulate any unlawful and/or harmful contents posted by their users,” he stated.