Palace: Facebook to help investigate online harassment of journalists

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

FACEBOOK has agreed to “coordinate” with the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to address online attacks on media practitioners in the country, according to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Oct. 30, Mr. Egco, who also serves as Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media, said he met with “two” representatives from Facebook’s Public Policy Division “last September” to discuss possible measures to address harassments against media practitioners on the social media site.

“Yung (The) meeting with Facebook happened immediately after noong nangyari kay (the incident involving) Julie Alipala in September, last month,” he said.

It will be recalled that the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) last month “condemn[ed] the dubious Facebook group Phil Leaks that tagged [its] former director and veteran journalist Julie Alipala of the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a terrorist supporter and accusing her of being a paid hack.”

The agreement between Facebook and the task force is called “coordination,” according to Mr. Egco. “Kasi (Because) we cannot tell them what to do and they cannot tell us what to do or what not to do.”

“So ang napag-agreehan, in case na merong complaint sa amin (We agreed that if there is a complaint), just like what happened kay (to) Julie [Ms. Alipala], we will communicate it to Facebook, and they will check with their own community standards. Kay (As for) Julie [Ms. Alipala], they found out na hindi lang (that it was not just) freedom of expression. (Those were really) threats talaga, so they took down the…post,” he explained.

“So co-complain sa amin (we will receive the complaints) and we will alert them [Facebook], then they will check. Ngayon meron pa silang (They also have a) law enforcement division…if the complainant decides to pursue charges against the [person],” he added.

The social media site, for its part, according to Mr. Egco, explained that “they have their own standards. And their standards are applied on Facebook in all countries…. Ang kanilang (Their) community standards are applicable sa lahat (to all).”

“Sabi nila (They said) , kung ang (if our) requests natin ay fit (in with their) sa kanilang standards, then there will be no problem,” he said further.

The task force, Mr. Egco also said, will have “future meetings” with Facebook to further discuss this matter. “We will invite them [Facebook] to sit down with us for them to share also about their efforts not only on media security but also all Facebook users’ security. E ca-carve out natin sa kanilang (We will carve out in their) program yung (the one which is) intended for media workers.”