Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan filed a resolution asking the Senate to investigate the sudden proliferation of fake Facebook accounts.

Filing Senate Resolution 444, the senator urged the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry to find out if there is a need to amend Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and other pertinent laws to make them more responsive to the situation.

Pangilinan said the inquiry would also help determine “possible regulation of social media platforms, in accordance with the policy that respects the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos guaranteed by the Constitution.”

“It is the declared policy of the State to protect and safeguard the integrity of communications systems, networks, and databases, and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and data stored therein, from all forms of misuse, abuse, and illegal access,” the resolution said.

“There is a need to look into our existing laws to increase the extent of liability and possible regulation of service providers or content hosts such as Facebook and other social media platforms. Legislation must be carefully crafted so as to balance the rights and freedoms accorded to every Filipino by the Constitution and the public interest to be protected from dangerous acts online,” Pangilinan said in the measure.

In the resolution, he noted that the sudden surge of dummy Facebook accounts came following the protests staged on the streets and online against the anti-terrorism bill.  Journalists and students reported the sudden surge of newly created dummy accounts bearing their names.

Even the senator himself was a victim of dummy accounts bearing his name.  Five new “Kiko Pangilinan” accounts have been created, and just like the other dummy accounts, these do not have a profile picture nor contain any other posts or information.

“Some Facebook users reported to have received threats from said dummy accounts using their names. The threats even go as far as calling said users ‘terrorists’,” he said.

Facebook said in a statement that it is investigating the surge in dummy accounts.

“We understand the concerns raised by our community in the Philippines. We’re investigating reports of suspicious activity on our platform and taking action on any accounts that we find to be in violation of our policies,” the social media giant said.

“[W]here they fail our authenticity checks, the accounts will be removed,” Facebook added.

On Sunday, June 7, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the surge in dummy accounts gives him “cause for worry” adding that false information is not needed “at a time when we’re dealing with a serious public health crisis”, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will immediately direct the DOJ Office of Cybercrime to coordinate with the [National Bureau of Investigation] and [Philippine National Police] cybercrime units to promptly investigate the apparent proliferation of fake or dummy accounts on Facebook,” Guevarra said.

During the 1st quarter of 2020, Facebook said that it had removed 1.7 billion fake accounts from its platform.  (Rommel F. Lopez)