This is to clarify my position on the “regulation” of social media that was taken from an interview in Dagupan City yesterday, and that was made the subject of several recent news articles.

Let me be very clear, I firmly stand by the Constitutionally guaranteed human right to free expression and do not support any broad, generalized restriction on this right, whether it is exercised directly, or through traditional and social media. But I also strongly believe that the deliberate, organized, and large-scale dissemination of false information, “fake news” in our current parlance, must be distinguished from the individual right to expression. The well-oiled machinery of fake news undermines public discourse by depriving citizens of the accurate information required to participate effectively in a democracy, and must be addressed.

This is a call that has been made by media practitioners, academics, and policy makers, both in the Philippines and other countries. It is a demand that has likewise been articulated to the various social media companies, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, who have, in fact, taken some initial steps to clamp down on fake news on their respective platforms.

This is the direction that we must take. Individual freedom of expression must always be protected. But the deliberate, organized, and large-scale distribution of fake news on social media needs to be addressed through legislation, as well as the policies of the concerned social media companies.

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