A SENATOR on Wednesday said fake news creation should be criminalized after a poll by Pulse Asia Research, Inc. showed Filipinos consider it to be a problem.

“Misinformation and disinformation should be taken seriously,” Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said in a statement. “Those behind it should be held accountable for their actions. It is not right for us to allow irresponsible news and information to spread because it will cause wrong decisions and opinions among our countrymen.”

The senator has filed Senate Bill 1296, which seeks to amend the Cyber-crime Prevention Act. If passed, purveyors of fake news will be punished with at least six years of jail time or fined P200,000.

“We intend to establish a policy to provide our citizens with a means for their protection from online falsehood and manipulation,” the senator said. “We hope to stop the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation on the internet by criminalizing fake news as a cyber-crime.”

Meanwhile, the presidential palace said it would launch programs against fake news.

“This is a serious issue that the Office of the Press Secretary will closely monitor,” Acting Press Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil told a news briefing.

Fake news was more pronounced in Metro Manila (87%) and the rest of Luzon (92%) than in the Visayas (77%) and Mindanao (81%), according to the Pulse Asia poll on Sept. 17 to 21. Classes ABC (87%) and D (93%) were more concerned about fake news than Class E (74%), it said.

It said most Filipinos saw or heard fake news on the internet or social media (68%), followed by TV (67%) and radio (32%). People also believed fake news came from friends, family, relatives, community leaders, newspapers and religious leaders.  

Ms. Garafil on Monday said Malacañang was studying whether social media influencers should be accredited to cover presidential events.

Former Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles had said the number of followers and engagements could be the basis for allowing them to cover Malacañang events. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza