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Robredo clarifies: Free speech a human right; ‘organized’ fake news should be addressed


Stressing that freedom of expression is the right of every individual, Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday said that she joins media practitioners, academics, and policy makers here and abroad in saying that the "deliberate, organized, and large-scale" peddling of falsehoods in social media should addressed.

Robredo was clarifying her earlier comments that called for sanctions on anonymous social media accounts peddling lies under a law.

“Let me be very clear, I firmly stand by the Constitutionally guaranteed human right to free expression and do not support any broad, generalized restriction on this right, whether it is exercised directly, or through traditional and social media. But I also strongly believe that the deliberate, organized, and large-scale dissemination of false information must be distinguished from the individual right to expression,” Robredo said in a statement.

Under Article 3, Section 4 of Philippine Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

“The well-oiled machinery of fake news undermines public discourse by depriving citizens of the accurate information required to participate effectively in a democracy, and must be addressed,” Robredo, a lawyer, added.

Robredo added that the same call has been made by media practitioners, academics, and policy makers, both in the Philippines and other countries, and that private companies such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have already taken some initial steps to clamp down on fake news on their respective platforms.

“This is the direction that we must take. Individual freedom of expression must always be protected. But the deliberate, organized, and large-scale distribution of fake news on social media needs to be addressed through legislation and policies of the concerned social media companies,” she said.

Robredo has been at the receiving end of such viral fake news, including one that claimed she left the country because she was pregnant when she went to the US in November 2016 to visit her in-laws.

Other fake news that have been circulating lately include posts claiming that the clergy want the reinstatement of the death penalty and that ink on a ballot will seep through the election ballot paper and be counted as a vote for a rival candidate.  

In November 2017, a US-based human rights watchdog claimed that the Philippine government has been employing a "keyboard army," including paid commentators, trolls, and bots, to make it appear that the controversial war on drugs has been gaining widespread public support. — BM, GMA News