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House group to consolidate bills seeking to regulate social media

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

The panel, chaired by Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, sought to consolidate House Bills 4093, and 5021, authored by Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and former Speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, respectively.

Teves, author of HB 4093, said his bill calls for a mandatory authentication process for all social media and other similar online accounts.

“It aims to ensure accountability on the part of the social media account owner,” he said.

HB 4093 seeks the registration of online and social media accounts using any valid government-issued identification and/or barangay certificates.

“It aims to address cyber bullying, harassment, online scam, libel, and even illicit drug trade and prostitution by holding individuals, private and public entities accountable for their online interactions,” Teves said.

“To verify identities, online social networking services will be obliged to require their users, whether resident or non-resident, to supply and link their accounts to the valid identification numbers provided by the government,” he said.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) rallied behind the regulation of the use of social media.

During a hearing, PNP Director for ICT Management Cesar Hawthorne Binag welcomed the measure, saying that it will help prevent cybercrimes which are difficult to address because the perpetrators cannot be easily identified.

However, representatives of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) expressed concern over possible violation of the account users’ privacy rights.

In filing HB 5021 or the proposed Social Media Regulation Act, Alvarez said it is time to curtail the abuse and misuse of social media and slap penalties against online identity theft.

HB 5021 mandates social media companies to verify the user applicants before they are allowed to open an account.

Violators of the proposed Act shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than six years and one day up to 12 years and a fine ranging from P30,000 to P50,000. Any person who owns or has control over artificial intelligence programs or similar programs that create social media user accounts that results in the irresponsible use of social media shall held liable.