libel in the Philippines

Carpio calls to amend libel laws to hold online platforms accountable over trolls

Rappler

SUGGESTION. Former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio says the Philippines' libel laws should be amended.

Rappler

Retired SC justice Antonio Carpio points out that there is still no Philippine jurisprudence holding online platforms liable for libelous comments of fake or fictitious users on their platforms

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday, July 31, said that to be able to combat trolls, libel laws should be amended so that a libelous comment made using a fictitious name is automatically malicious.

During the online recognition rites of the University of the Philippines College of Law Class of 2021, Carpio lamented that while public figures defamed online can sue the online platform as publisher, they are usually discouraged because they have to overcome the presumption of good faith.

“The burden of proving malice is on the libeled public officials or public figures. The law must be amended that malice is presumed on the part of the publisher if the libelous comment is made by a fake or fictitious person who has been allowed by the online platform to make the libelous comment without verifying his identity,” Carpio said.

“Until the law is amended, online platforms in the Philippines are not bothered by libel suits for comments posted by their fake or fictitious users,” he added.

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In the Philippines, libel is a crime under the Revised Penal Code but, when committed online, it is covered by the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which imposes longer jail time.

In his speech, Carpio pointed out that there is still no Philippine jurisprudence holding online platforms liable for libelous comments of fake or fictitious users on their platforms.

“Online platforms have allowed fake or fictitious persons to post clearly libelous comments and disinformation on their platforms to generate interest and traffic to their platforms,” he added.

Under Philippines laws, defamatory imputations are presumed to be malicious even if it’s true or what is called malice in law. But jurisprudence has generally held that when the comment is made against a public official, the comment enjoys a higher degree of protection because of the right to free speech.

Carpio on Saturday also reiterated his warning that troll farms that actively spew disinformation could heavily affect the outcome of the 2022 elections.

“During the campaign period for the May 2022 elections, the troll farms will proliferate and will be very active in spreading libelous comments and disinformation against targeted candidates,” he said.

“Let us all ensure that trolls, fake news, and disinformation will not dictate the results of a vital exercise of our democratic project,” Carpio added, appealing to the media. 

He also suggested that media organizations require those who comment on their platforms to reveal their names and countries of residence so that anyone libeled could seek legal action.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that while the proposal had good intentions, it is not feasible.

“IP addresses, not real names, serve as the unique identity when accessing websites. The use of VPN has become necessary amid the different digital threats and attacks,” the NUJP said in a statement sent to Rappler on Saturday.

“Putting the burden on news agencies and websites to deter trolls is a myopic appreciation of the issue,” the group said. “Social media companies have a huge role to play too. They need to prevent such actors from abusing their platforms and spreading hate and misinformation.” – Rappler.com