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Philippines’ Duterte blocks bill to register social media users

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed legislation that would have required registration for both SIM cards and social media use


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed legislation that would have required registration for both SIM cards and social media use – Copyright AFP Jam STA ROSA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected a proposed law requiring social media users to register their real names and phone numbers, citing threats to free speech and privacy, his spokesman said Friday.

The legislation, designed to combat fake news, online abuse, text scams and militant bombings, also required mobile phone users to provide their personal details when buying SIM cards.

It was approved by both houses of Congress in February, but critics said it was a form of state surveillance.

While supporting efforts to tackle cybercrime and other online offences, Duterte said he opposed the inclusion of social media user registration in the bill.

He called for “a more thorough study” of the provision, citing concerns it could lead to “dangerous state intrusion and surveillance threatening many constitutionally protected rights” such as individual privacy and free speech, presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said in a statement.

Filipinos rank among the world’s heaviest users of social media, and the country has become a key battleground for misleading or fake news.

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Renato Reyes, secretary-general of leftist alliance Bayan, welcomed the veto, saying SIM card and social media registration created a “chilling effect” for users and would “not deter crime”.

“A big part of the problem is government itself, as it benefits directly and indirectly from nefarious online activities,” Reyes said in a statement.

“We should start with demanding the government stop weaponizing social media and attacking people online.”

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Duterte’s election victory in 2016 was underpinned by social media campaigning at a time when online misinformation was on the rise.

Critics accused the Duterte camp of employing online trolls to praise him while attacking dissenters — even issuing death threats. Duterte has denied the allegations.

Since taking power, the authoritarian firebrand has been accused of harassing or even jailing opponents and shutting down media outlets critical of his policies.

Duterte’s decision to block the bill comes as a torrent of misinformation floods Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter ahead of the May 9 national elections.

Ferdinand Marcos Junior is leading the race for the presidency, while his running mate and first daughter Sara Duterte is the top contender for vice president.

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Senate president and vice presidential candidate Vicente Sotto, who had supported the legislation, responded sarcastically to the veto.

“Great! Bombings and blackmail and scams will continue using prepaid sims,” Sotto tweeted.

Many mobile phone users in the Philippines use pre-paid SIM cards that they buy over the counter without giving their names and addresses to providers.

Militant groups fighting the government in the country’s south are known to favour the use of mobile phones to remotely detonate improvised explosive devices, leaving police with one less way to track the perpetrators.

The proposed measure can still become law if legislators can muster a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override the presidential veto, but that is unlikely to happen before the polls.



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Elon Musk’s Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

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Elon Musk's Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

Okay, let’s just check in on the latest with the Twitter/Elon Musk takeover saga, and where things are placed to close out the week.

According to the latest reports, Musk’s team recently asked Twitter for more tweet info, in order to help it make an accurate assessment of bot activity in the app. This comes after Musk questioned Twitter’s claim that bots and fake accounts make up only 5% of its active user base, and said that his Twitter takeover deal could not go ahead unless Twitter could produce more evidence to support this figure.

Which Twitter did, by providing Musk with access to its ‘full firehose’ of tweets over a given period, which it shared with Musk’s team back on June 8th. Musk’s group has now had that data for a couple of weeks, but this week, it said that this info is not enough to go on, and that it needs even more insight from Twitter to make its judgment.

And after initially resisting calls for more data access, Twitter has now reportedly relented and handed over more tweet data access to Musk’s team.

Which may or may not be a concern, depending on how you see it.

In its initial data dump, Twitter reportedly gave Musk’s team info on:

  • Total user tweets (within a given time period)
  • Data on which devices were used

As noted, Musk’s team says that this has not provided it with the insight that it needs to conduct an accurate analysis of potential bot activity, so Twitter has now provided Musk with more ‘real-time API data’.

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It’s not clear whether that means that Twitter has provided everything that its API systems can provide, but that could mean that Musk’s team can now access:

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  • Real-time info on tweet text and visual elements/attachments
  • Data on retweets, replies, and quote Tweets for each
  • Data on tweet author, mentioned users, tagged locations, hashtag and cashtag symbols, etc
  • Date, time, location, device info

That should satisfy any analytical needs to uncover potential bot trends, and get a better handle on Twitter’s bot problem, though it also means that Musk has all your tweet info – which, again, it’s worth noting, Twitter up till now had been hesitant to provide.

I’m sure it’s fine. Musk’s team is beholden to disclosure laws around such, so it’s not like they can do anything much with that info anyway, in a legal sense. But the idea that the sometimes erratic Elon Musk now has all the tweets could be a little concerning for some.

But Twitter likely had to provide what it can, and if Musk is going to become CEO of the app soon anyway, he’s going to have access to all of that data either way.

But still, given Musk and Co’s past history of undermining and attacking critics, sacking trouble maker employees and digging up potential dirt on rivals, it sits a little uneasy.

Should be fine. No problems – no need to go deleting all your DMs (which are likely not included in the data that Twitter has provided at this stage).

According to reports, Musk’s team says that it now has the info it needs to make its assessment of bot activity, which should see the deal move forward (or not) sometime soon.

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Of course, no one knows what exactly is going to happen next, and whether Musk’s team will look to renegotiate, or even back out of the deal entirely as a result of its bot analysis. But it does seem like, one way or another, Musk will be forced to go ahead with the $44 billion transaction, with Twitter’s past bot reporting methodology already accepted by the SEC, giving it legal grounding to argue that it’s acted in good faith, regardless of what Musk’s team finds.

The next steps then, according to Musk, would be securing debt financing and gaining Twitter shareholder approval, clearing the last hurdles for Musk to change the app’s name to ‘Telsla Social’, and add a million references to ‘420’ into the platforms various terms and conditions.

Because of the memes, because weed jokes are still funny to the richest man in the world – because he vacillates between inspired genius and a massive nerd who now gets to play out some fantasy of being cool.

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Or something. Who knows what goes on in Elon Musk’s head – which is also why most are hesitant to bet against him, as nobody knows if and how he might be able to fix Twitter, and whether this is a great investment or a massive disaster.

It seems like we may soon find out. Maybe. Who knows. Either way, the memes should be great.



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