The National Telecommunciations Commission (NTC) of the Philippines has asked e-commerce giants Facebook Marketplace, Lazada, and Shopee to stop selling banned SMS blast machines on their portals. The order was issued following an emergency text blast was received, pertaining to the presidential bid made by the country dictator’s son Bongbong Marcos.
Illegal Use of Emergency Alert System
The regulator has cited illegal use of the portable cell sites, which are used to send messages to subscribers within a range of three to five kilometers. It has been made illegal to buy, own, or sell such tools, except for some authorized agencies and private firms. The “emergency alert” text blast was sent out last week, containing a message of support for Bongbong Marcos. The devices are typically used during natural disasters.
And that’s not all, as the NTC has also asked the Philippines branches of these companies to show reason as to why they shouldn’t be held liable for violating the law by allowing such devices to be sold on their platforms. Apart from providing the explanation in writing, these firms have also been ordered to appear before the NTC at 10 am on October 27.
The regulator has claimed that the text alerts must have come through illegal channels, since the official Alert Short Message Service is used only by disaster control agencies.
Companies Willing to Cooperate
Meanwhile, Shopee and Facebook have already removed such product listings from their services. A Facebook spokesperson had previously said that the company will be working with the authorities to take down unlawful listings, adding that they will “review and take appropriate action” once it receives an official report from the “appropriate legal authority.”
Lazada too, has said in a statement that it has taken down the products the “highlighted by the NTC report on October 7.” The company says that it carries out a “daily manual sweep” to check for any product listings that might violate “existing policies,” and proceeds to remove any such products once they are identified.
The firm has also urged the public to flag any illegal listings, saying that it won’t hesitate to take “strong actions” against any party that is found to be indulging in illegal activities on its platform.
The country’s House of Representatives has filed a resolution to carry out a probe into the use of the emergency text alert gateway for supporting a partisan election system.