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NBI issues subpoenas to fake news authors

According to ABS-CBN News, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has sent out a total of 17 subpoenas to people, who are deemed to be propagators of fake news, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the head of NBI Cybercrime Division Victor Lorenzo, the numbers are about to get up in the coming days.

What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a legal document sent by a court or a government agency that requires a person or an entity to go to a meeting at a specific time and place. It is usually used to summon someone in court.

Why is the NBI issuing it?
NBI’s Cybercrime division has been monitoring various social media channels for COVID-19-related fake news as well as cyberscams. It verifies first if the information shared was indeed fake and then tracks down the accounts which disseminate false information in the public. Investigations are conducted right after verifying the identity of the person behind the account. Only then will the NBI send a subpoena to the person to let them air their side.

Lorenzo clarifies that the agency does not suppress the freedom of expression and denies the accusation of Diokno. “We are not focusing on the comments, we focusing on the materials online that is in violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal code.”

Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code indicates the “unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances” through:
– any person who publishes false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the state.
– any person who by the same means, or by words, utterances or speeches shall encourage disobedience to the law or to the constituted authorities or praise, justify, or extol any act punished by law.
– any person who shall maliciously publish or cause to be published any official resolution or document without proper authority, or before they have been published officially.
– any person who shall print, publish, or distribute or cause to be printed, published, or distributed books, pamphlets, periodicals, or leaflets which do not bear the real printer’s name, or which are classified as anonymous.

“We are referring to factual errors and malicious intent to populate false news related to COVID-19 that could endanger the public order,” Lorenzo added.


Things to do when you receive a subpoena

Individuals who have received subpoenas should reach the NBI Cybercrime division through its phone numbers, email address, or social media accounts within the indicated dates.  Although it is not encouraged, they can also go directly to the main office to provide their story.

The fake news stories that NBI is currently looking into are the supposed extension of the Luzon lockdown and a report which involves the helicopter-riding soldiers spraying harmful chemicals all over Luzon.

Earlier today, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno informed the public through his Twitter account that NBI was sending subpoenas to netizens who voice out their concerns regarding the government’s measures in responding to the current health crisis.

Jewel is a Multimedia Producer for YugaTech. She's a caffeinator by day and a cinephile by night.

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