PH enjoys ‘internet freedoms’ but under threat of disinformation – study | Inquirer News

PH enjoys ‘internet freedoms’ but under threat of disinformation – study

/ 05:20 AM October 20, 2022

Close up of hand holding cell phone. STORY: PH enjoys ‘internet freedoms’ but under threat of disinformation – study stock images

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines enjoys more internet freedoms than its neighbors in Southeast Asia, but these freedoms remain under threat because of disinformation, especially before and during the May 2022 general elections, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the Washington-based watchdog Freedom House.

The study, Freedom on the Net 2022, saw internet freedoms across the world falling for the 12th consecutive year as governments divide the open internet into repressed enclaves through policies that block content and punish people for exercising their right to free expression online.


Sharpest drop

Of the 70 countries included in the study, Russia suffered the sharpest drop in internet freedoms as the Kremlin sought to contain information about its war on Ukraine. China, meanwhile, remains the worst place for online speech for an eighth consecutive year.


The study rates each country with a score of 100 based on three categories: obstacles to access, limits on content, and violation of user rights. Their scores determine whether they are “free,” “partly free,” or “not free.”

‘Partly free’

The Philippines is considered a “partly free” country with a score of 65/100—a slight improvement from its 2020 score of 64—overtaking Malaysia (59/100), Singapore (54/100), and Indonesia (49/100) in Southeast Asia.

It also ranked fifth among Asia-Pacific countries behind Taiwan (79/100), Japan (77), Australia (76) and South Korea (67/100).

The researchers lauded how the country, alongside Canada, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, established the Global Cross-Border Privacy Rules Forum in April 2022 to bridge regulatory discrepancies and promote the free flow of data under what it determines as “best practices” for data protection.

‘Disinformation for hire’

However, they still considered internet freedom “under threat,” especially during the May 2022 elections, which saw the landslide victory of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Among others, the report noted that candidates and campaigns — particularly the Marcos Jr. campaign — “mobilized disinformation-for-hire firms, micro-influencers, meme page, and hyper-partisan media sites to manipulate online narratives.”


It noted how Marcos’ closest rival, then-Vice President Leni Robredo, became the most frequent target of disinformation campaigns and how he gained the most from it by rebranding his family’s legacy and minimizing the atrocities perpetrated during his father’s dictatorship.


Meanwhile, journalists and news sites continue to face politicized cyberlibel charges for their reporting, such as when former Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Dennis Uy, a prominent businessman and Duterte ally, sued seven media organizations in December 2021 over their reporting on corruption allegations involving the two men.

The report also took note of the cyberattacks against several media sites in late 2020, one of which was traced back to the IT infrastructure of both the Philippine Army and the Department of Science and Technology.

While the government does not explicitly order the removal of online content, it noted several instances where information was taken down and the state forced people to publicly apologize for critical social media posts. For example, content relating to the ousted dictator became inaccessible during the coverage period, sparking concerns that the Marcos administration would seek to remove online content in order to paper over abuses perpetrated by the dictatorship.

Guinness entry removal

After the May 2022 elections, the website of the Presidential Museum and Library, which documents the history of the martial law era, became inaccessible.

In March, the Guinness World Records website removed the entry for “the greatest robbery of a government,” which was attributed to the elder Marcos.


The report recommended that states strictly regulate the use of surveillance tools and personal data collection by government and law enforcement agencies, and maintain access to internet services, digital platforms, and circumvention technology, particularly during elections, protests, and periods of conflict.

Governments must also craft or strengthen legal frameworks that enable a democratic and resilient information space.

The study also recommended that internet companies and social media platforms ensure fair and transparent content moderation and resist government orders to shut down internet connectivity or ban digital services.


Robredo to launch movement vs disinformation, fake news

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Robredo is biggest disinformation victim; Marcos gains from ‘misleading’ posts — fact-checker


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