Proponents of the proposed SIM Card Registration Act, as embodied in Senate Bill 2395 approved by the Senate on third and final reading recently, said the measure is expected to finally bring an end to “Trolls” and fake news.    

Sen, Franklin Drilon, co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Grace Poe, said: “We have to cure trolls that are spreading as fast as the virus that we are battling today. Troll is a virus that hides behind anonymity and continues to spread nothing but hatred and disinformation.”

Under the bill, all public telecommunications firms are required to fill out a registration and produce a valid identification card before an SIM card be purchased.

At their final plenary session of the year, senators voted 22-0-0 to approve the proposed SIM Card Registration Act which seeks to eradicate criminal activities aided by mobile phones, the internet or other electronic communication devices.

These criminal activities include terrorism, text scams, unsolicited indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, trolling, hate speech, and the spread of digital information or fake news.  

“At the core of this measure is the promotion of security in the country. It is timely and fitting given that various technology-aided crimes are rampant in the country today,” said Poe in the explanation of her vote for the measure.

“It is high time that we beef up our own infrastructures to address these threats to security.” Poe added.

The bill penalizes the use of fictitious identities to register SIM card, spoofing and the unauthorized use of registered SIM cards. An amendment to the bill introduced by Drilon would obligate social media platforms to require users to register their real names and phone numbers before creating an account.

“This new provision will prevent anyone from making anonymous accounts online,” Drilon said in a statement. 

Drilon at a hearing on the rise of social media platforms tried to get representatives from Facebook to commit to disclose the identities of anonymous users who make defamatory statements. He said this would give those on the receiving end of malicious posts the ability to seek legal recourse. 

If this bill is enacted, Drilon said so-called trolls could face up to 12 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to PHP200,000 or both, along with those who use fictitious identities to register their SIM card.  

A bicameral conference committee will have to meet to reconcile disagreeing provisions. Their committee report would then have to be ratified by both chambers of Congress before the measure can be transmitted to the president’s desk for approval. 

President Duterte himself admitted during a press conference after his State of the Nation Address that there are indeed tolls but denied that he or the government still employs the use of online trolls or “social media users”. This statement came after a report by Rappler identified three high-profile pro-Duterte bloggers Mocha Uson, RJ Nieto, and Bruce Rivera as having received  preferential treatment.

An internet troll is one who posts controversial opinions with the intention to incite anger from others in order to distract people from the real issues. An internet troll may support a certain candidate and undermine opposing candidates. They may also tag certain groups to support opposing political groups.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal believes that online trolls may be held liable for election offenses if they are found guilty of “propagating false and alarming reports to disrupt or obstruct the election process or cause confusion, as provided for under the Cybercrime Act of the Philippines.