cybersecurity

‘Enough basis to file charges’ against social media platforms for hosting scammers – CICC

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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‘Enough basis to file charges’ against social media platforms for hosting scammers – CICC
The Internet Transactions Act, signed into law in December 2023, looks to hold platforms like Facebook and X accountable for 'harboring' scammers

MANILA, Philippines – Alexander Ramos, executive director of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), discussed in an interview with ANC on Tuesday, December 19, how Republic Act 11967 or the Internet Transactions Act is the starting point by which the Philippines can seek accountability from social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and X, and e-commerce platforms hosting online scammers.

Ramos said that as far as the platforms are concerned, “they’re doing a lot of business and yet they lack the necessary safety nets for local consumers. With this new law, I think we have enough basis to file potential charges” against them.

Ramos added, “If you continue to allow certain accounts that that promotes fake products or fake accounts that are victimizing people, they should not be harboring them.” Ramos said such platforms should be detecting and calling out such bad actors, if not deplatforming scammers.

For example, one such scam being seen on Facebook are fake pages of popular stores or brands such as gadget stores Power Mac Center and Beyond The Box. The pages are able to advertise their posts on the platform, include links to a legitimate-looking but fake website that phishes for the victim’s information.

Below is the screenshot of one such ad being run by the fake Facebook page:

A closer look by hovering at the name of the fake page shows an attempt to make people believe that it has 824,000 likes and 838,000 followers, as the size of a page’s following is often an indicator of legitimacy. However, the real follower count can be found at the bottom-most row, showing 886.

These fake pages are able to run ads on Facebook as a legitimate page are able to do, potentially leading to cases of phishing and other cases of fraud.

While shutting down e-commerce and social media in the country for such problematic behavior by bad actors is not tenable, Ramos said having a law to protect consumers lets the government – alongside other governments in Asia – exert pressure on tech companies.

Said Ramos in relation to social media scammers, “We are not the only country who has a problem like this. I believe in the last ASEAN Cybersecurity Summit based in Singapore, there is a collective action towards this goal to really increase the enforcement against the social media platforms.”

During the interview, Ramos also pointed towards RA 11967 as a means of getting consumers on board the idea that they should be reporting scammers they encounter.

He hopes to encourage people to also learn about protecting themselves online by maintaining decent cyber hygiene and personal security standards, and by reminding people of the importance of such. “The issue is behavioral more than technology, because no matter what technology we bring in, if the behavior is adverse to it, then it will be still a failure,” Ramos noted.

“This is a collective effort. This is not just the government,” Ramos said.

“The individuals, the citizenry is also encouraged. One of the weaknesses that we have is the lack of reporting by victims. If you don’t have the knowledge, you defer from reporting it. How can we develop a better strategy if we don’t have the participation of everyone? But right now we have a good fighting chance.”

Interested parties can file complaints with the CICC by going here. – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.