Facebook snubs hearing on online child sexual abuse; senators eye contempt raps
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators called out social media giant Facebook for snubbing Tuesday’s Senate hearing on bills seeking to strengthen laws against the sexual abuse and exploitation of children online.
During the hearing of the Senate committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, panel chair Senator Risa Hontiveros said the social media giant, who she confirmed was sent an invitation to attend the hearing, would be made to explain why it did not send a representative.
“We will consider holding them in contempt,” Hontiveros added.
Before this, some senators questioned the absence of a representative from the social media platform.
“Why isn’t Facebook here? This is most unfortunate. I wish we could get their explanation because it appears like na parang are they above the law? Sila ba ay hindi marunong makipagusap sa gobyerno na tinututukan at naghahanap ng solusyon dito sa online sexual abuse and exploitation?” Senator Francis Pangilinan said.
“Sayang, sana nakapaghanda sila ng presentation nila para makapagpaliwanag. We are concerned, very concerned about their absence,” he added.
Pangilinan noted that “many of this proliferation of abuses” happen through fake accounts on Facebook.
“In fact the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) a few weeks ago reported online adoptions by Facebook accounts that were fake,” he said.
“Unfortunately, why isn’t Facebook here? Are they even interested to address the challenges, these violations of our children’s rights. The least they could have done was appear here before the committee and explain their own policies and it is most unfortunate that their absence here prevents us from getting their side,” he added.
The senator proposed a separate hearing on reports of online sexual abuses proliferated on Facebook, noting that “these abuses are happening in plain sight, in these social media accounts.”
“We don’t want to quarrel with the private sector but they’re not here. Some experts on online technology, digital experts, actually describe Facebook as a crime scene, particularly these fake accounts undertaking these criminal activities,” Pangilinan further said.
Senators Imee Marcos and Pia Cayetano shared Pangilinan’s concern over the absence of a Facebook representative in the committee hearing.
“I also find it extremely disturbing that your (Hontiveros) hearing is just ignored by Facebook,” Cayetano said.
“If we will have a separate hearing we will support that because they must be accountable for the role that they play. There are a lot of documentaries around and they’re really showing how the role of social media is contributing in seriously damaging our youth,” she added.
INQUIRER.net has sought Facebook’s comment on the concerns raised by the senators but has yet to receive a response as of posting.
Facebook recently said it is stepping up its fight against child abuse with new tools for spotting such content and tighter rules about what crosses the line.
The social media giant updated its guidelines to make it clear it will remove Facebook or Instagram accounts dedicated to sharing images of children posted along with captions, hashtags or comments containing innuendo or inappropriate signs of affection.
New tools being tested included one that triggers pop-up messages in response to search terms associated with child exploitation, warning of the consequences of viewing such material and suggesting people get help changing the behavior.
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