COMELEC pushes for laws against use of trolls in elections

·Contributor
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Philippine National Police officers set up in front of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) headquarters in Manila on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Philippine National Police officers set up in front of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) headquarters in Manila on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) urged Congress on Monday (May 30) to enact a law that will regulate social media platforms and combat use of online trolls during the campaign period.

In a Senate hearing last February, fact-checking group Tsek.ph bared their findings on over more than 200 fact checks since January. In their report, the group found that outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo is the “biggest victim” of disinformation attacks, while president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., benefits positively from disinformation content.

COMELEC Commissioner George Garcia admitted that it is “difficult” to enforce existing laws against fake accounts that are being used to spread disinformation and libelous content on different social media platforms.

“It’s very difficult, really, to prove and prosecute and enforce the Cyber Libel Act, but at the same time, we will push Congress to enact a law specifically for the campaign, specifically the use of trolls during the campaign period,” the commissioner said.

"Easily, anybody who will be victimized by these trolls can file cases in relation to cyber libel. But of course, it's very difficult to prove, and at the same, it's very difficult to pinpoint the liability of individuals in this case,” he added.

In the aftermath of the recently concluded 2022 local and national elections, some troll farm workers, by self-admission, shed light on operation schemes used by select troll networks.

Due to the absence of a law regulating social media in the country, Garcia admitted that the country's poll body is "powerless" in monitoring online campaign expenditures of candidates. "That's the reason why in the next Congress, we will push for a social media regulation at least as far as election expenditure and campaign is concerned," he added.

Garcia said that the lack of a law regulating social media renders the poll body “powerless” over monitoring online expenditures of the candidates.

On April 15, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed a bill seeking to tighten safeguards on social media accounts and SIM usage in the country.

Passed in Congress, SIM Card Registration Act, aimed to stop different forms of abuse and crimes on social media platforms.

Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.

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