Holding socmed giants accountable still a challenge

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Barriers remain to fully protect free speech and the right to information of Filipinos, a University of the Philippines professor said on Friday.

Fatima Gaw, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication Research of the University of the Philippines, cited as example how some legislators in the country do not fully understand how the platform works.

“That’s the first barrier to legislating basic protections for speech, for right to information. I think the second barrier is that we have to admit that we are in the economic periphery of the world. You have a lot of bargaining chip with the platform even if the Philippines is one of the heaviest users of social media,” she said during the forum title “For Your YNFORMation” organized by Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines, and Generation Peace Youth Network in a hotel in Pasig City.

Gaw said multinational social media companies still do not take situations and sentiments from the Philippines seriously.

“Their interventions are quite simple. They send PR (public relations) people here to solve democratic problems and not really the policy people who can really enact real change. So, for me, sometimes they might say they want to help with the elections, they want to help our government uphold a free and fair elections. I think that’s only for show so I still wait for the platforms to be serious about addressing the problems here,” she said.

Gaw said that it is a hard battle to fight because the social media platforms will only listen to the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

“I’m not sure if we are in that position yet. I hope the next administration will take this problem seriously,” she added.

The event was attended by about 100 participants, with some from Visayas and Mindanao joining virtually.

One of the speakers, Political Science instructor Miguel Paolo Rivera of Ateneo de Manila, said speaking out loud and asking why Facebook and Twitter keep banning government officials is a classic example of “brain fart”.

“It is very difficult to ask for accountability,” Rivera said.

On Tuesday, Senator Bong Revilla, Jr., who chairs the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, asked Facebook to explain the series of flagging and removal of posts and shared stories by government officials, various government media agencies, and even ordinary netizens.

He said his office recognizes Facebook’s efforts against the incidents encountered in social media platforms but would welcome information and an explanation from the social media giant.

Over the weekend and intermittently until Monday, the Philippine News Agency’s posts on Facebook were deleted or flagged.

Netizens, editors, and reporters also reported that either they could not share PNA stories from the website or previously shared posts were flagged for alleged violations of “community standards”.

Most of the posts were subsequently restored as the default messages said Facebook got it wrong.

However, no clear explanation on the alleged violations have been provided as of posting time.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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