TWO senators have called on the Department of Education (DepEd) and other stakeholders to join hands in stopping Internet trolls, those netizens who start quarrels and sow discord by posting inflammatory articles or lies online.
Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Leila de Lima believe that concrete action is needed to get rid of these troublemakers who spread misinformation in social media.
De Lima said the mushrooming of fake accounts and manufactured news shows that hackers, fanatics and spammers have abused the freedom of the Internet to foment lies and hatred at the detriment of rational discourse.
She added that respected individuals such as former president Fidel Ramos and actress Agot Isidro have been subjected to malicious misinformation.
De Lima, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said she was herself the object of a malicious misinformation campaign designed to destroy her name and reputation.
The senator cited the “news” about her buying a $6-million (P288 million) mansion in New York. A cursory check at the address of the alleged property showed that the mansion was the Barlow-Pell Mansion Museum, a popular landmark in New York.
“This latest fake news is just one of the many manufactured news and fabricated lies being maliciously peddled around to malign and discredit me. Sadly, truth has become the first casualty,” de Lima said.
The senator noted that any deliberate and malicious attempt to curse, trash, degrade, humiliate and vex people online should not be tolerated.
“In our democratic society, the freedom of speech we all enjoy is not a license to smear the reputation and ruin the credibility of other people. I respect your expression of dissent and even frustration, but I will not tolerate any attempt to denigrate me and much less, to silence our democracy,” de Lima said.
Aquino on the other hand expressed belief that the best way to prevent Internet users, particularly students, from falling victim to trolls and misinformation is to arm them with knowledge and make them responsible “netizens”.
Aquino is the chairman of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture.
During the committee hearing to determine how schools are educating and developing students regarding the responsible use of social media, Aquino said the DepEd should help prevent students from falling prey to trolls by arming them with needed knowledge to fight them.
He said DepEd could conduct a “media literacy week” or “responsible social media use week” to jumpstart the move.
Carlo Ople of Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) said “trolling” is a problem not only in the Philippines but also in the world and the real victims are those who believe in misinformation.
“We need explosive and faster solutions,” Ople said.
Aquino said all stakeholders must work together in creating a society that is more humane and compassionate.