Poe eyes ‘tougher’ sanctions for cyber libel and fake news

The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media is poised to pursue a probe to plug legal loopholes that allow bloggers earning undeclared income from advertisements to avoid payment of taxes.

Senate probers confided that such revenue stream should be maximized since the government is set to impose new taxes under the so-called TRAIN bill, also known as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, which aims to raise P130 billion to bankroll the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” projects.

Reports reaching the committee indicated that Google, Facebook and bloggers are said to split sizeable earnings from advertising revenues, also called Google ads, from which millions in revenue are derived without clear mechanisms for how recipients pay taxes.

This, after Sen. Grace Poe, committee chairman, confirmed the panel is also mulling over tougher sanctions against fake news purveyors and cyber libel cases.

Poe, however, hastened to clarify the committee is not out to “suppress free speech”.

“As a legislator, while I am concerned about the pernicious effects of the proliferation of fake news that can destroy not just a person’s reputation but institutions, as well, I am in no way in favor of any measure that aims to suppress our freedom of speech or expression,” the senator said.

Poe added: “What I intend is to come up with a law that will increase the penalties for cyber libel caused by fake news and make public officials and employees, whether elected or appointed, hired as a consultant or adviser, paid or not, criminally liable for posting fake news online where malice is presumed.”

The senator asserted that freedom of expression “ends when libel begins”.

She affirmed the need to pass remedial legislation to crack down on fake news purveyors. “By way of special law, it would be wise to make it a public policy to deem fake news a malum prohibitum offense.”