Red-tagged journalist presses Facebook for red-taggers’ identities

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2023 05:57 PM

In this file photo illustration taken on Feb. 17, 2019, the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/File
In this file photo illustration taken on Feb. 17, 2019, the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/File

MANILA — In a novel move against red-taggers, Cagayan de Oro-based journalist Leonardo “Cong” Corrales filed a complaint on Friday morning with the National Privacy Commission to compel parent company Meta to disclose information on Facebook accounts which red-tagged him.
 
Accompanied by lawyers from the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) and the head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), he personally filed the complaint at the NPC’s main office in Pasay City.

Citing the Data Privacy Act, Corrales claimed that Meta denied his request for information on Facebook accounts that red-tagged him, which he needed to hold them accountable.

He was told Meta needed to comply with legal processes. 

Corrales’ lawyers argued that a prior National Privacy Commission case said a court order is not needed for such a request.

Section 16(c) of the Data Privacy Act gives a data subject reasonable access, upon demand, of the names and addresses of recipients of personal information.

Corrales is represented by two MAD conveners — former Philippine Bar Association president, Atty. Rico Domingo and law professor and former dean Tony La Viña.

In a statement, La Viña said this complaint would “exact accountability from social media platforms.”

“La Viña lamented that many of his other clients had also been red-tagged but could not do anything because they could not identify the perpetrators, who hid behind fake Facebook names and accounts,” a press release from MAD said.

“This will benefit other journalists and truthtellers who have been red-tagged. We are confident that we have a strong basis for this case,” said Domingo.

Corrales, known as the most red-tagged journalist in Mindanao, said he hoped his complaint would lead to a clearer path against red-taggers and encourage journalists and citizens were maligned and slandered online to go after the perpetrators.

“Sana this will offer a clearer way to combat red-tagging and libelous posts, especially on Facebook,” he said in an interview with the media shortly after the filing.

NUJP STATEMENT

In a statement, NUJP considered the filing of Corrales’ complaint “an important step in the fight against red-tagging.

“We have always held that the attacks on Cong and on others, especially those that are done by anonymous pages with apparent links to the military and police, are part of a strategy to discredit and bully into silence journalists as well as activists and rights defenders working towards a better democracy and a better Philippines,” it said.

“Cong’s filing today will, we believe, lead to evidence of that,” it added.

The red-tagging incidents which NUJP documented involving Corrales included flyers and posts which tagged him as a supposed member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and laballed him as a “terrorist New People’s Army” (NPA) member.

Other posts identified him as a member of NUJP, accused of being the “propaganda arm” of the NPA. Corrales was a former director and long-time member of NUJP.

Facebook has removed the posts.

Aside from Corrales, NUJP’s national president, Jonathan de Santos, who accompanied him during the filing of the complaint on Friday, was also the subject of red-tagging by an anchor of SMNI.

The anchor accused him of being an active member of the underground movement of the CPP-NPA-NDF when he was young.

De Santos denied the allegation on Twitter, saying in jest that he was only a drunkard in his youth.

“I joke, of course, from the relative safety granted by privilege and by living in Metro Manila,” he said.

“Marami sa mga red-tagged -- lalo na sa probinsya at lalo na sa community at alternative press -- ay walang kaparehong safety at security kaya mas malaki ang impact sa kanila ng ganito,” he added.

NUJP said it hoped Corrales’ complaint was the first step towards unmasking those behind anonymous accounts red-tagging journalists.

“Today's filing is more than a legal exercise, it is a manifestation and a statement to show that we are strongest when we — journalists, the law profession, the academe and civil society — are together and we can best help each other hold the line when we do it hand in hand,” it said.