The pros and cons of regulating social media

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2017 02:33 PM

MANILA- A technology law expert casts doubt on the effectiveness of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's proposed bill seeking to regulate social media use in the Philippines.

Under House Bill 5012, a person can be penalized for creating a social media account using someone else’s identity. Alvarez's proposed measure also mandates social media networks to verify the identity of their users.

Lawyer JJ Disini said although the measure has very good intentions, it is impossible for the Philippine government to regulate an offshore media platform.

He explained that the bill also begs the question on why only fake accounts in social media are being eyed for regulation.

“Why are we punishing fake accounts? But why are we not regulating anonymity within the mobile networks in the Philippines?” he said in an interview on ANC’s “Future Perfect.”

Disini said Alvarez's proposal can be tied with SIM registration so that people registering fake social network accounts can be traced using the SIM registration.

But he also explained that although fake accounts are dangerous in the sense that they can be used to spread false information online, anonymity also allows users to express ideas freely.

“Anonymity, although it’s dangerous in the sense that it could spread false information, anonymity is also a source, a tool that can be used to promote free expression and a free exchange of ideas,” he said.

“They are using these fake accounts, so to speak, as a way for them to express their thoughts and ideas on what was happening to society,” he added.

Disini said regulating social media would also make people who are critical of the government more hesitant in expressing their concerns since they can now be identified.

"There is belief that some space for anonymity is desirable for any democracy," he said.

Disini said apart from the proposal of a measure to regulate social media, netizens themselves can also take the initiative to discern fake accounts by reviewing the profiles.

He suggested checking the number of friends, photos and activity online as a way to discern the authenticity of the user.

Regulating social media would also be tricky for the government since Filipinos are one of the top social media users in the world, Disini said.

“I think when people enjoy their freedom and you restrict them, they will complain. I think Filipinos enjoy social media, we’re one of the top social media users in the world,” he said.

“When you tell people you can’t have your Instagram, you can’t have your Facebook, you will see millions of people in EDSA,” he added.