The Philippine National Police (PNP) has formed a task force that will go after fake news peddlers on social media in a bid to prevent disinformation amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) threat in the country.
“The Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Gen. Archie Gamboa has ordered, in coordination with the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) the creation of Task Force Covid Kontra Peke. We will find these fake news peddlers sowing disinformation,” Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said in a Laging Handa briefing Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) arrested two suspects for sowing disinformation and selling products that allegedly cure Covid-19 online.
Ismael Aviso and his son Ismael Jr. were nabbed in an entrapment operation in their house in Navotas City after receiving buy-bust money amounting to PHP7,500 from police poseur-buyers.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said Ismael Sr., spread false information using his Youtube account on what products to use to allegedly defeat the virus. He then highlighted the product which he said can be sprayed orally in order to kill the virus.
The suspect also discussed other products that can help alleviate cold and cough, and boost the immune system.
“They are not just selling fake products. They are also spreading wrong and baseless information which can harm our fellowmen. There is currently still no cure for Covid-19 so let’s be wary on claims like these,” he said in a statement.
Malaya lamented that some people are taking advantage of the crisis to make money and sow fear and panic.
He urged people to report those who are responsible for fake news to the Emergency 911 hotline of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) earlier launched the government’s virtual portal that serves as a one-stop source for the latest information about Covid-19.
The website www.covid19.gov.ph contains aggregated news, documents, and videos that the public can find useful as they monitor updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
PCOO Assistant Secretary and chief brand integrator Ramon Cualoping III said launching an online portal exclusively for the latest developments related to Covid-19 is one of the government’s ways to fight the proliferation of fake news.
Cualoping acknowledged that there is now a “chaotic situation on social media,” as some online users tend to propagate fake news about the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the government wants to fight disinformation by providing the public “verified and vetted” information about Covid-19. (PNA)