PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa. (File photo)

MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday ordered its Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) and attached units to intensify operations against purveyors of fake news on social media platforms.

PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, has ordered the ACG “to monitor misinformation circulating in social media involving national or immediate concern, conduct validation and fact-check to provide reports and updates with Facebook for appropriate action”.

“This time, we need to double our effort against the proliferation of false information, most especially about national concerns. We will conceptualize legal offensive against those netizens posting misinformation on social media platforms,” Gamboa said in a statement.

He also urged the public to refrain from posting unverified information which appears to be fake news that may result in panic and confusion among people.

At the same time, ACG police officers are coordinating with the Facebook Philippines through their law enforcement portal and apparently able to monitor various posts proliferating fake news about the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“Facebook PH is providing helpful information and support to people connecting with accurate information about the global and regional health situation particularly on COVID 2019,” the PNP-ACG said. 

Earlier, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the PNP to immediately investigate and arrest those responsible for spreading fake news about the disease to the public. 

He said the PNP would not hesitate to put behind bars all individuals or groups who are guilty of spreading false information on the issue on various social media platforms.

Meanwhile, DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG), which investigates crimes using Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is capable of tracing and tracking fake news perpetrators on the Internet. It is currently verifying six suspected fake news posts on the coronavirus on social media.

“The PNP-ACG is working hard to detect the whereabouts of these law offenders. We expect arrests to be made soon,” said Malaya.

He said that Article 154 on the “Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances” of the Revised Penal Code punishes perpetrators of fake news.

The same provision penalizes a person who causes the publication of any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the state. 

Violators face imprisonment of one to six months and a fine ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP200,000. They could also be punished under the Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

They can also be held liable for violating Presidential Decree No. 90, which declares Unlawful Rumor-Mongering and Spreading False Information, which may cause or tend to cause panic, divisive effects among the people, and undermine the stability of the government. (PNA)