AFP dials down Facebook ‘regulation’
MANILA, Philippines — Seeking congressional approval of his appointment as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Gilbert Gapay conceded that the government could not use the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to “regulate” Facebook and other similar social media without violating the Bill of Rights.
But, Gapay insisted, the government could hold online networks and internet service providers liable and force them to control the contents of their platforms so that terrorist groups could not recruit members, “radicalize” young people and secure financial aid from supporters.
“The goal is to regulate [and] make social media platforms and service providers more liable for the content they host, especially to enforce the traceability of the content to enable accountability,” Gapay said at his confirmation bearing before the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA).
Gapay made the remarks after he was asked to explain his earlier proposal to restrict what social media users could post on their social media accounts under the new anti-terrorism law that is currently being challenged before the Supreme Court.
“This regulation is not tantamount to curtailment of the right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the freedom of assembly as exercised in social media,” he opined, stressing that the AFP only wanted to “regulate the social media platform and service providers, not the users.”
“They can regulate what is being uploaded in their social media platforms,” said the country’s highest military official, adding that they were now coordinating with Facebook Philippines regarding their concerns.
“There is no intention to impose prior restraint when we proposed regulating social media. We believe that anybody can post anything on social media, but we suggest that they do it responsibly,” he said.
But Drilon, a former justice secretary, reminded Gapay that the government would violate the Bill of Rights as stipulated in the 1987 Constitution if it would impose regulations on the service providers and social media networks.
“We should not anticipate what these [social] media platforms will do… They are private [companies],” Drilon said. “There should be no attempt on the part of government to impose prior restraint on [social] media outlets.”
Besides, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who presided over the hearing, said that he neither thought of violating the Bill of Rights nor imposing prior restraints when he sponsored the measure in the Senate.
“What we will penalize [under the law] is the actual act of facilitating [terrorism] and recruiting [terrorists]… We cannot regulate social media,” Lacson told Gapay, whose appointment was eventually confirmed.
Last May, the US Supreme Court rejected a 2016 lawsuit [Force vs. Facebook] claiming Facebook knowingly hosted accounts belonging to the terrorist organization Hamas, but the court declined to hear the case, reaffirming its position that even hate speech is protected speech in the United States.
The case is one of many against the social network giant involving the promotion of hate but Facebook has recently stepped up the enforcement of its “community standards” to block hate speech.
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