Anti-fake news bill may restrict free expression — solon

MANILA — A progressive lawmaker on Friday expressed some reservations about a newly proposed bill seeking to penalize the “malicious distribution” of false news.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the proposed anti-fake news bill is “very broad” in scope which may infringe on the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution.

“While the proliferation of fake news and online misinformation has to be addressed decisively, we submit that criminalizing it is not the way forward,” Zarate said.

Zarate said that the concept of fake news is nothing new and has been around for centuries.

The lawmaker cited Philippine history wherein Katipuneros were branded by Spaniards and Americans as “bandits and brigands while they are freedom fighters”.

“They also peddled fake news saying that they came to the Philippines to make us civilized, but just used our country as a source of raw materials, cheap and docile labor and dumping ground of their surplus products. In short they plundered our country but said that it is for our own good,” he said.

“As it is, fake news creates false and distorted history that up till now has to be corrected,” he added.

Zarate said combating fake news can be done with the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information bill, as well as for mainstream and social media practitioners to be objective in reporting events.

“The best way to counter fake news is for the people to be well informed of accurate facts,” he added.

Under Senate Bill No. 1492, or An Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and Other Related Violations, Sen. Joel Villanueva defined false news or information as those which either intend to cause panic, division, chaos, violence, and hate, or those which exhibit a propaganda to blacken or discredit one’s reputation.

Villanueva said the proliferation of fake news should not be tolerated especially when the public interest was at stake, stressing that he wanted stiffer penalties for public officials as well.

He said that the passage of this bill would encourage citizens, especially public officers, to be more responsible and circumspect in creating, distributing and/or sharing news.

Villanueva’s measure states that any person who will be proven guilty of malicious creation and distribution of false news will face a fine ranging from PHP100,000 to PHP5,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from one to five years.

The measure also stated that if a violator was proven to have aided and encouraged the malicious creation and distribution of fake news, he or she will be slapped with a fine ranging from PHP50,000 to PHP3,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from six months to three years.

Moreover, a public official guilty of the said act will be meted out with twice the amount of fine and will have to serve twice the said period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office.

Any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fails, neglects, or refuses to remove false news will also be penalized with a fine ranging from PHP10,000,000 to PHP20,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years. Filane Mikee Cervantes/