Poe calls on Facebook to have ‘main’ office in PH

MANILA Senator Grace Poe on Thursday said that online platform Facebook must have a main office in the Philippines or at least assign a permanent country representative, noting that concerns over abusive content and requests for support in improving content management could be better addressed.

This after Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar raised the concerns during the third and last Senate hearing on the proliferation of the so-called fake news.

In the hearing, Andanar pointed out that since the second hearing, the PCOO had made strides to fight false news or disinformation.

Among these was the holding of the National Information Convention in February 19 to 21 which gathered around 1,800 Information Officers from across the country in Davao City.

It just saddens me because we invited Facebook to attend so that they can help us in teaching and informing all of the info officers that were present there, the Palace official said.

We extended our invitation to FB but they sent their regrets, Andanar recounted.

He also narrated the very sad experience of Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director-General Harold Clavite had with Facebook.

At the height of the Marawi siege, there was a video that went around on FB that was presumably uploaded by ISIS or a sympathizer from the Maute group, he said.

Clavite reported this to FB and it was not acted upon after two to three months, Andanar said.

Poe, the chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, immediately issued a mild rebuke to Facebook.

Facebook, with your presence in the Philippines, I don't think it's too much to ask to have a representative in every government function that requests your presence, she said.

You should definitely, if not make the Philippines a hub. Give us a little more credit than you are already extending to us, Poe said.

She stressed that Facebook should at least extend a little courtesy to the Philippines, given the large number of Filipinos that patronize the online social network site.

Otherwise, you should not be getting also the same courtesy from us, Poe said.

According to the report "Digital in 2017: Global Overview," the Philippines is 7th in the increase of new social media users in the whole world with 12 million new social media users in 2017, and the country ranked 6th globally in the number of Facebook users with more than 60 million.

Meanwhile, Filipinos spend the most number of hours on social media, with each Filipino social media user spending an average of four hours and 17 minutes on social media.

You should have a main office here in the Philippines. We are sick and tired of having to call you in Singapore to come here. We appreciate your help and cooperation. But you should have a FB office here especially with the number of Filipinos that patronize Facebook, Poe stressed.

On the part of Facebook, Simon Milner, Facebook vice president of public policy for Asia Pacific, said that the company appreciates the senator's demands.

He assured that Facebook will soon have a permanent policy officer in the Philippines.

With regards to the offensive video, the FB official said that it was then the company's understanding that it was shared by people to condemn the siege.

Once we understood the government's concerns on that content, the content was removed, Milner said.

Poe interjected that the problem would not have gone to lengths if there is a Facebook representative in the country.

In relation to this, Poe urged that whoever Facebook employs as policy representative in the country, he or she should be somebody that has the company's respect and somebody with the authority to be able to tell the real situation.

She said that she understands Facebook needs to maintain its neutrality but it has also to be responsive to real concerns, especially the needs of the regular citizens of the country.

So a person that you will respect and listen to and not just a dummy that you will install in the Philippines would be more productive for us both, Poe stressed.

I am very happy to give you that reassurance, Milner replied.

Whoever we hire here in the Philippines will be a bridge between the community in the Philippines and our company, and that means they will both inform the people here what the company is doing to address concerns and to make our service even better to Filipinos, he said.

It is not easy to find people but we absolutely assure you that whoever we appoint to this role will command our full respect and will be an important interlocutor for you and your colleagues here, Milner said.

Source: Philippine News Agency