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Ressa: Hold online platforms accountable for disinformation, misinformation

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Senators should craft a measure that would hold technology and social media giants responsible for the information spreading on their respective platforms, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maria Ressa said on Wednesday.

Ressa made the remarks at the third hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes where Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan inquired her on the possible ways to curb the growing disinformation and misinformation in cyberspace.

The Rappler chief said one of the “quick” solutions to the pressing issue is to create such legislation and penalize digital platforms that would continue to allow its proliferation on their platforms.

This is possible in the Philippines, she said, noting that the country does not have a law similar to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act in the United States which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

“In our country, what can we do? We don’t have Section 230 so the quick solution would be to actually hold platforms accountable for what they allow to spread,” she told senators. “When you do that, you would automatically see a shrinking of information operations.”

Drilon then asked Ressa if online platforms should be considered as publishers and be given the same liabilities as traditional media.

“In traditional media, the publisher is made responsible because theoretically they have control over media outlets particularly newspapers, radio, etcetera, but in social media, the platform owners are not responsible. They’re not considered as publishers,” Drilon said. “Are you saying that one remedy is to consider them as publishers?”

“It certainly something that I have thought about,” she answered.

The veteran journalist further emphasized that the regulation should be focused on the algorithm of the distribution channels and not on content to avoid accusations of censorship.

“So where are you going to intervene? Don’t intervene in the content because you can actually be accused of censorship,” she explained.

“But if you go to the algorithms of amplification… because everyone can say what they think. But what your neighbor said never reaches broadcast scale until today, because there have been no guardrails on the distribution of lies,” she added.

Pangilinan, for his part, shared her sentiments and vowed to support any move that will hold accountable the individuals behind the proliferation of fake news and the channels that amplify the same.

“We must have laws that are up-to-date, responsive to the needs of the times, foolproof as best at it can be against the ingenious minds of criminals … We have to craft new laws or legislation cognizant of the new complications that technology poses,” the senator said.

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