DICT bars gov't officials from spreading 'fake news'

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 01 2018 02:47 AM

Libelous statements and fake news online made by government officials and servants are prohibited under the guidelines for social media use being drafted by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

"As civil servants, we have to conduct ourselves appropriately and accordingly. Kinakailangan purveyors of truth kami. When you say fake news, you're a purveyor of lies, bawal din yun," DICT Assistant Secretary Carlos Caliwara said.

In Tuesday's Senate hearing on fake news, senators called out certain entries on Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson's personal blog, which allegedly "misinforms" readers. 

Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Public Information and Social Media Committee, even raised the question whether Uson's blog should be shut down, citing conflict of interest.

The draft guidelines for social media use allow government employees and officials to maintain a personal account or blog, but it notes that content must be guided by laws, rules and policies.

"Civil servants are encouraged to participate in social media in order to improve efficiency and productivity. However, as in all aspects of work, civil servants are duty-bound to use social media responsibly," the draft AO stated.

The guidelines prohibit government personnel from using social media in a way "that would bring disrepute to public service, that discourage confidence and trust in public servants, or that adversely reflect on the agency."

It also prohibits posts that might appear to solicit support for or against a political party and those that violate the cybercrime prevention law, including libel.

For the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the guidelines may be considered a double-edged sword. While it prevents the spread of fake news, it could also step on a government personnel's freedom of expression.

The guidelines blacklist opinions on an agency's online platform, made by employees or individuals which do not represent the department or agency's view.

"If it would tantamount to gag order, we oppose that. Kasi halimbawa, maraming government employees na nagsasalita for salary increase, critical of the Duterte administration, etc," NUJP Director Ronalyn Oleo said.

Oleo clarified that the NUJP is not against officials using social media, but they oppose spreading fake news online. 

The DICT expects to complete by first quarter the draft guidelines for social media use of government personnel.