THE so-called “Bikoy” black propaganda that maligned President Duterte and his family boomeranged against the Yellows, and contributed to voters’ anger toward their candidates, which led to their electoral rout.
It will also likely be another case that will help to finally bring the troublemaker Antonio Trillanes 4th to jail.
The episode though will likely be a boon for Bicolano businessmen Elizaldy Co and his partners in the Misibis Bay resort in Albay. Co last week filed libel charges against Google Philippines, the owner of YouTube and Facebook, and demanded P1.1 billion in damages under the country’s Cybercrime Act.
Included in the charge were the two internet giants’ country directors Kenneth Lingan and John Rubio, respectively. These two though are either just moronic servants, or Yellow sympathizers. Co should sue Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg for a billion dollars for their lies against the Republic’s President that their companies spread. That would prod international media — which has been silent on the libel suit — to report it.
Maybe include in the suit the brains of the Bikoy video, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, as soon as there is the slightest evidence that it was mostly his handiwork.
Episode 5 of the Bikoy videos, which Duterte himself has claimed was the handiwork of his strident critic Trillanes, alleged that the businessman Co was the leader of a drug syndicate operating in the region and that the criminal operations were undertaken inside his posh Misibis Bay resort.
Co has vehemently denied these, and claimed that the allegations not only severely tainted his reputation but drastically affected his business, leading to huge financial losses, with banks even closing their credit lines to him.
Open and shut
The suit appears to be an open-and-shut case that would make Co a billion-peso richer. Jurisprudence in many Western countries has turned up decisions that favor similar complainants, although involving much smaller monetary claims. The courts pointed out that such social media businesses that have been making billions of dollars in profits have the responsibility to allocate a few millions to ensure that they do not publish in cyberspace malicious lies against innocent citizens.
However, a few cases in the US, UK and Canada were resolved in favor of the social media platforms, based on two notions.
The first involves the so-called “notice-and-take-down” declared policy of social media platforms. There have been court rulings in the West that acquitted social media venues on the ground that the libelous postings were taken down as soon as the aggrieved party called their attention to it.
However, bolstering many netizens’ suspicions that Facebook and YouTube are run by Filipinos sympathetic to the Yellow Cult, both completely ignored the Bicolano businessman’s demand to take down the video and any postings on the Bikoy allegations last April 26, or four days after Episode 5 containing the libelous accusations was released.
All previous four episodes are in fact still there, YouTube’s way of telling our country to f**k off.
Social media companies’ second defense is that rather than newspapers, their platforms are in reality “libraries,” a notion contained in one US judge’s ruling in 1992 (when social media was in its infancy), which led to the now infamous “Section 230” in the US Communications Decency Act of 1996.
That is, Section 230 has been used to make the claim that social media postings are just like books in a library, with the library’s owner not even knowing what books were being borrowed, and therefore not liable for their contents.
That certainly would appear to be a preposterous defense for Facebook’s Bikoy video, as the issue had hogged the headlines for a month, with the President of the Republic himself talking about it. It is impossible for Facebook and YouTube not to have noticed the libelous allegations, in which their social media platforms served as the mechanism for their dissemination, not just here but world-wide.
But that kind of defense is obviously applicable only in the 1990s when social media didn’t yet have the colossal audience Facebook and YouTube have now, that they can mold public opinion.
It is indeed so appalling that an anonymous Bikoy would claim without any basis at all that a businessman is a drug lord, with that slander viewed and heard by probably more than 100,000 people viewing his allegation in YouTube, and the accusation having to be reported by traditional media with another 200,000 as its audience. No way can YouTube and Facebook claim they are not involved in this vile deed.
The Bikoy video should be a wake-up call for our judiciary to enforce quickly and strictly the cyberlibel provisions of the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act. Maybe even for Congress to amend the law to make it stricter and to require law enforcers to enforce it even before formal court proceedings.
Isn’t it quite ironic — or maybe they’re just demonstrating their Yellow feathers — that Ellen Tordesillas, the head of Vera Files, which is one of Facebook’s “fact-checkers,” strived to get people to view the Bikoy videos, which turned out to be a colossal case of the fakest news? She even tried hard to sell the videos to the country, claiming that they were reporting the truth that the allegations there were, in her words, “riveting”?
Maybe this sickening Bikoy episode will lead to something good: For Facebook and YouTube to stop being venues for spreading calumnies against Filipinos, especially the politically motivated Yellow kind, that are really intended to oust a duly elected president.
Despite its Yellow biases, the kind of lies contained in the Bikoy videos wouldn’t have been published or aired by traditional media, which are by their nature required to comply with journalistic standards of assessing the validity of allegations made against people, even government officials.