Some Comments on Presidential Communications Operations Office's Social Media Policy Draft

In the interest of further engaging and harnessing the power of social media in communicating with Filipino citizens, The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) initiated drafting a social media policy and a town hall meeting was held last February 23, 2017 at UP Diliman, attended by representatives from media outfits and influential and popular bloggers in the blogging community.  The town hall meeting was livestreamed through facebook page of PCOO.  The initial draft was also posted in their facebook page for perusal by the public prior to the aforementioned town hall meeting.

The initial draft of social media policy is short and properly referenced.  But I have some comments:

1)  Line 36-37:  "Government recognizes social media as the collective voice of the citizenry"

I think it may be reworded some other way as I think it gives an impression that what can be found in social media is the collective voice of Filipinos.  Although, it may be argued that a lot of Filipinos have begun accessing social media platforms such as Facebook as part of their regular routine, I think we may have to consider that despite the large number, it is not representative of the sentiments of Filipinos.  I would agree, though, it is an accessible conduit for getting immediate feedback.

2)  Line 45:  "form of public communication and one source of information;" 

Perhaps we can change "one source of information" to "a source of information", as the former seems to imply that social media is a sole source of information.  Social media platforms are utilized as a good and fast method of disseminating information.  But usually information found in these platforms link to websites and blogs.  I see social media platforms as tools for aggregating information so that viewers/readers can easily organize and search for information needed.  

3)   Line 199:  "Style Guide for the government"

What guide does this pertain to?  What is it based on?

4)  Line 231: "Never use vulgar or abusive language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms targeting individuals or groups."     

What would be considered as "offensive"?  Does offending feelings considered offensive?  With the arguments online, it is easy to be "offended".  

I remember what Ms. Stella Estrema of Sunstar Davao said during the Town Hall meeting.  She said, "ang role ng blogger ay magmura para sa mga tao."  And I wholeheartedly agree.  This statement does not only pertain to using abusive language online; I think this also represents the freedom of bloggers to be more expressive with what they post as opposed to traditional journalists who follow a stricter code of ethics.  Since this is an aspect of expression that traditional journalists must exercise utmost restraint, it is up to the bloggers to be able to express the pulse of ordinary citizens.  

5) Line 234, 314:   "Do not endorse private and commerical products, services, or entities."

I do not think endorsement of private/commercial products or services should affect PCOO accreditation/representation, unless the government bloggers to be exclusively blogging only for the government.  If this is so, then maybe there is no need for accreditation but rather, focus on just which blogs/bloggers can represent PCOO in an official capacity exclusively.  I have read some of the references used in the draft of this policy (as indicated at the end of the document) and perhaps, what is also needed is to clearly outline the capacity by which bloggers can use a particular social media platform in an official/professional/personal capacity.  

Should bloggers create a separate blog for PCOO matters?

6)  Line 302:  "Do not post sexual content or links to sexual content"

There is a need to be more specific about what kind of sexual content or links to sexual content that are not allowed.  Does this refer to pornographic materials?

7)  Line 306:  "In the course of using public spaces of the site or thread, do not post personal information"

Emphasize that posting personal information, especially those of others, without explicit consent of the parties involved.

8)  Line 412-413:  "Applicant must not be involved in prosecuting any claim against the government."  

I think the statement sounded a bit defensive and it would help if there are specific details to describe which claims the statement/requirement pertain to.

Requirements for accreditation should also include documents reflective of applicant's background, criminal record, and history of social media practice.

Will PCOO have editorial capacity regarding content of all accredited blogs, or only of those bloggers considered to be representing PCOO in an official capacity?  As I understand, there may actually be two groups of bloggers concerned in this SM policy: one group is that of bloggers accredited to cover particular events/activities of the government, and the other group is that of bloggers who are considered as officially representing PCOO.  I think this is one information that PCOO must clarify soon.

There are some who are skeptical about this move to involve bloggers in the government.  Although it may be feasible that accreditation of bloggers may be a way of finding the vocal critics of the administration,  I have to agree with Jane Uymatiao with what she said on her twitter:

I am for transparency in government, especially at a time when misinformation is freely propagating online.  Citizens should be able to freely access information to aid cross-referencing and fact-checking.  

I am glad that the PCOO recognizes the contributions of bloggers to media and is open to suggestions and comments in developing a social media policy.  I think we are going in the right direction but how we'll play it will make a significant impact on whether this will be successful or not.

*Some of my comments can also be found at Blogwatch.TV's post:  Citizen Engagement and Social Media Town Hall.


Popular Posts