Meta exec says PHL laws prevent enforcers from quickly addressing cybercrimes

PHILSTAR FILE

AN OFFICIAL of Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, told the Philippine Senate on Thursday that the country’s current laws hinder law enforcement agencies from quickly tracking perpetrators of cybercrimes.

Roy Abrams, Meta’s law enforcement manager for Asia Pacific, said the challenge lies in the need for police officers to get a search warrant.

He also noted the prevalence of internet cafes in the country, which could be readily used by cybercriminals and stay anonymous.

“We are in very close consultation with the relevant subcommittees within both the House (of Representatives) and the Senate to revise this to make the police… more nimble,” Mr. Abrams told a Senate hearing on a resolution that seeks to amend the country’s cybercrime law to address the proliferation of illegal activities using digital platforms.

Mr. Abrams said Meta — which is also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, among others — is working with the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group for systems that can help them quickly address illegal activities within the bounds of the law.

He cited a direct reporting system where the Philippine government was provided a “special email address” for quick content takedown when necessary.

At the level of criminal investigation, a data disclosure program will be implemented where law enforcement agencies are entitled to information called basic subscriber information, which includes Internet Protocol (IP) address and session Information Identification.

By identifying a machine’s IP address, it will be easier to locate the device being used by the assailant.

“Philippine law enforcement does have the power to get user information data from us in criminal matters, that means certain criteria, acknowledging fully that defamation can be one of our trickier issues,” said Mr. Abrams.

Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the problem with this existing arrangement is that access to data depends on the social media platform’s criteria instead of the government’s.

“Media platforms have the authority to decide whether or not we can enforce accountability, and that power is simply exercised by denying or maintaining the power to let these accounts remain anonymous,” he said during hearing. “They have the impunity because of the anonymity.”

The senator called to “move the responsibility of enforcing our rights from the social media platforms to our courts.”

Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan, who chaired the hearing, noted that free speech is not absolute. “We need the identities to be made available should there be precisely such kind of speech that is harmful, defamatory, illegal or criminal in nature.”

Mr. Abrams assured that they are committed to these dialogues and will continue to work with the Philippine government to find a suitable arrangement that will protect online users’ privacy rights as well as prevent cybercrimes. Alyssa Nicole O. Tan