Less than a month before the presidential election in the Philippines, President Rodrigo R. Duterte vetoed a bill that would make it mandatory to register all customer identification module (SIM) cards and social media accounts in the Philippines, which critics say has been damaged by the campaign.
In a statement Friday, presidential spokesman Jose Ruperto Martin A. Andanar said the inclusion of social media companies in the registration requirement was not part of the original version of the bill and “requires a more thorough study.”
“The president has similarly observed that certain aspects of state intrusion, or its regulations, have not been properly defined, discussed or thwarted in the bill relating to social media registration,” he said.
Congress has approved a measure to register SIM cards before it becomes active in the Philippines, with a total of more than 120 million mobile subscribers. Social media users need to register their legal identity and phone number when creating a new account. Lawmakers said the bill was intended to curb cybercrime and online trolling.
However, critics say the proposed law could be used to infringe on the privacy and fundamental freedoms of Filipinos, who are most at fault for fake news, according to a survey conducted by global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.
Mr Andaner said that while Mr Duterte praised the growing incidence of cybercrime and the Congress’ efforts to tackle information and communications technology (ICT) crime, he was “limited to disagreeing” with the inclusion of social media in the measure. Providing appropriate guidelines and definitions “such as this could lead to a dangerous state intrusion and surveillance situation that threatens many constitutionally protected rights.”
He said it was the responsibility of the president’s office to ensure that any law was in line with the demands of the constitution, such as guaranteeing individual privacy and freedom of speech.
“Nevertheless, we urge Congress not to lose the courage to pass effective and forceful measures that provide a safe and secure online environment for our citizens, provided that it is subject to judicial scrutiny.”
Earlier this month, MetaPlatforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, Inc., suspended a network of more than 400 accounts, pages and groups ahead of the Philippine general election because it seeks to crack down on hate speech and misinformation.
His main rival, Vice President Maria Leoner “Leni” G. Robredo’s family was among the victims of the online misinformation campaign.
Posts with links to an alleged sex video of his eldest daughter were circulated online, mostly among accounts supporting Mr Marcos’ candidacy.
Most cases of confusion on social media platforms are directed against Miss Robredo, based on information gathered by a fact-finding platform launched by the University of the Philippines and other universities with the help of local media organizations.
“A lot has come out ahead of the May elections. “Based on our preliminary analysis, fact-checking has been done on 200 people, most of whom are directed against presidential candidate Robredo,” Evan T. Chua, a professor of journalism at the University of the Philippines, who was part of the group, told an earlier Senate hearing. This year.
The fact-checking platform said that in the case of Mr. Marcos, there were several fake approvals from various sectors, including so-called celebrities and even the head of state.
It says historical mistakes related to his father have also resurfaced.
Facebook shut down 155 accounts, 11 pages, nine groups and six Instagram accounts last year, with posts in China expressing strong support for Mr Duterte’s leadership.
Kaspersky had previously said it had identified a “rare, widespread-scale continuous threat” by a “Chinese-speaking threat actor” against users in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.