Bill seeks jail time, stiff fines on creators of fake news

A SENATE bill presented by Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday prescribes jail term and stiffer monetary fine for anybody found culpable of spreading fake news in print, broadcast or online media.

Villanueva filed Senate Bill 1492 or An Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and other related violations.

The bill provided prison term for any individual or groups, including government officials, whose fake news causes panic, division, chaos, violence and hate, or the spread of propaganda to blacken or discredit the character of a person.

"The effect of fake news should not be taken lightly," Villanueva said.

He added that fake news creates impression and beliefs based on false premises which can lead to division, misunderstanding and further exacerbating otherwise strenuous relations.

The bill, Villanueva said, would punish violators with a hefty penalty depending on the nature of crime he or she committed.

Any person who will be proven guilty of malicious creation and distribution of false news will face a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from one to five years.

If the offender is a public official, he or she will be made to pay twice the said amount of fine, and twice the period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office.

Meanwhile, if a violator was proven to have aided and encouraged the malicious creation and distribution of fake news, he or she will be slapped with a fine ranging from P50,000 to P3 million and imprisonment ranging from six months to three years.

A public official found guilty of spreading fake news will be meted out with twice the amount of fine and will have to serve twice the period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office.

In addition to that, any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fails, neglects, or refuses to remove false news will be penalized with a fine ranging from P10 million to P20 million and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years.

Villanueva said it is high time for Congress to pass a bill that will curb the spread of fake news in the country.

The bill penalizes any person or entity, who maliciously offer, publish, distribute, circulate, and spread false news or information in print, broadcast or online media, will be penalized under the bill.

Recently, Villanueva noted the existence of numerous fake social media accounts allegedly created to spread false news.

The senator added that public officials must take the moral high ground instead of being the ones to spread false information coming from fake news sites.

The problem of fake news was further put on the spotlight when Justice
Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reportedly made false claims, which implicated some opposition lawmakers in the conflict in Marawi City.

Villanueva was one of the senators who expressed support in the call of his colleagues in the Senate for Aguirre to retract his statements and issue a public apology.

Also in May 2017, General Eduardo Año, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, ordered a probe on the complaint against soldiers who posted their comments following fake news posted online.

"The recent events involving our public officials who failed to validate information that resulted to the spread of false information make matters worse. The proliferation of fake news should not be tolerated especially when the public interest is at stake. This is why we want stiffer penalties for erring public officials,” Villanueva explained.

The immediate passage of the said measure, the senator said, would promote responsible use of social media and other platforms. (SunStar Philippines)

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