Senator Grace Poe on Thursday said that online platform Facebook must have a main office in the Philippines or at least assign a permanent country representative, noting that concerns over abusive content and requests for support in improving content management could be better addressed.
Poe, the chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, immediately issued a mild rebuke to Facebook.
“Facebook, with your presence in the Philippines, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a representative in every government function that requests your presence,” she said.
You should have a main office here in the Philippines. We are sick and tired of having to call you in Singapore to come here. We appreciate your help and cooperation. But you should have a FB office here especially with the number of Filipinos that patronize Facebook,” Poe stressed.
Simon Milner, Facebook vice president of public policy for Asia Pacific, said that the company would soon have a permanent policy officer in the Philippines.
According to the report “Digital in 2017: Global Overview,” the Philippines is 7th in the increase of new social media users in the whole world with 12 million new social media users in 2017, and the country ranked 6th globally in the number of Facebook users with more than 60 million.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar reported his agency’s bad experience with Facebook which snubbed its invitation to help eduate the public on fake news.
“It just saddens me because we invited Facebook to attend so that they can help us in teaching and informing all of the info officers that were present there,” the Palace official said.
“We extended our invitation to FB but they sent their regrets,” Andanar said
He also talked about the “very sad” experience of Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director-General Harold Clavite had with Facebook.
“At the height of the Marawi siege, there was a video that went around on FB that was presumably uploaded by ISIS or a sympathizer from the Maute group,” he said.
“Clavite reported this to FB and it was not acted upon after two to three months,” Andanar said.
With regards to the offensive video, the FB official said that it was then the company’s understanding that it was shared by people to condemn the siege.
“Once we understood the government’s concerns on that content, the content was removed,” Milner said.
Poe interjected that the problem would not have gone to lengths if there was a Facebook representative in the country.
She said that while she understood Facebook’s need to maintain its neutrality but it has also to be responsive to real concerns, especially the needs of the regular citizens of the country.
“So a person that you will respect and listen to and not just a dummy that you will install in the Philippines would be more productive for us both,” Poe stressed.
Milner replied:“It is not easy to find people but we absolutely assure you that whoever we appoint to this role will command our full respect and will be an important interlocutor for you and your colleagues here,” Milner said. (PNA)