Philippine’s latest ‘anti-troll’ bill awaits Duterte signature
The bill will require social media networks to get the real name and phone number of users during the creation of an account.
MANILA – A bill aimed at curbing criminal activities done with the help of mobile phones and catching online trolls spreading disinformation now only awaits the signature of President Duterte after the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified on Wednesday the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed SIM Card Registration Act.
It is described as an “anti-troll” bill as it will require all social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get the real name and phone number of users during the creation of an account.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the public services committee, said in a statement that the most important provision of the bill was “to mandate all public telecommunications entities (PTEs) to require the registration of SIM cards as a prerequisite to their sale and activation.”
Existing SIM card subscribers with active services will be given 180 days from the law’s effectivity date to register their account and failure to do so will lead to deactivation.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he sought the insertion of the provision requiring users’ real names to strengthen the fight against online trolls and cyber libel.
“Our amendment will provide citizens, especially the victims of fake news, online harassment and cyber libel, legal recourse and protection against those who hide behind anonymity and fictitious names,” Drilon said on Thursday.
Poe said another important provision added was to require telecommunication and social media companies “to keep relevant data and information for 10 years from the time the end-user deactivates his or her mobile number or social media account.”
Telecom firms such as Globe and PLDT will keep the data in a centralized database to protect the privacy of consumers.
“Whatever information obtained in the registration process cannot be disclosed to any person except in compliance with any law authorizing disclosure, such as in the case of the Data Privacy Act; or in compliance with a court order or any other legal process; or with the written consent of the subscriber. No waiver of absolute confidentiality is allowed,” Poe said.
A SIM (subscriber identity module) card is an integrated circuit chip on mobile phones used to identify and authenticate subscribers.
According to Drilon, the requirement to use real names was aimed at “fight(ing) the anonymity that provides the environment for trolls and other malicious attacks to thrive in the age of social media.”
“This new provision will prevent anyone from making anonymous accounts online so they could attack anyone endlessly and viciously,” Drilon said, expressing hope that the new law would “signal the end of the troll era” that has infected and caused further division among Filipinos.
The provision will also aid authorities in dealing with a barrage of cyber libel complaints, the senator added, noting how the Philippines has become home to millions of troll accounts.
The proposed measure imposes a penalty of imprisonment of no less than six years, or a fine of up to P200,000, or both, on anyone who uses a fictitious identity to purchase and register a SIM card or social media account, according to Drilon.
Poe also clarified that while the sale of SIM cards to foreigners would be allowed, they should comply with prior requirements that include presenting their passport and proof of their address in the Philippines.
“We hope that by legislating this measure, we would be able to eradicate mobile phone, internet or electronic communication-aided criminal activities. This has been a long time coming but I hope that the passage of this bill will result in a safer and more secure mobile use and cyberspace here in our country,” she added.