Facebook shuts page for ‘hate speech’ after advocating vs power utility

July 01, 2020

AS companies around the world begin to boycott Facebook for its tolerance of hate speech, the social media company elected to shut down a Philippine-based page which sought to protect consumers against the overbilling practices of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), citing its Terms of Use against hate speech.

Nagmamahal, Meralco (a pun on the word nagmamahal which could mean lovingly yours or price inflation) was unpublished by Facebook on 9 June 2020 after the page published content demanding that Meralco refund ₱19 billion in overcharged fees and led complaints against the utility for increasing household billings by as much as four times the normal rate during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“We received a notice that someone has complained about our posts. We have received similar complaints before, but we trusted Facebook to act correctly since nothing ever came out of these complaints. But on June 9, we were unpublished by Facebook, and received an email saying that ‘pages which are hateful, obscene, or threatening are not allowed.’ We have filed an appeal and released an open letter to Facebook which disputes the process and the findings of that process,” said Gerry Arances, Convenor of the Power for People Coalition (P4P), the group behind the page.

The group has been at the forefront of the struggles against Meralco’s excessive billing, the use of unreliable, expensive, and polluting coal, and the continued lack of response to the issue of consumer refunds.

“Recently, we have been posting information regarding Meralco’s overbilling during the quarantine and our efforts to reclaim P19 billion that have yet to be refunded to consumers. These are legitimate concerns that have been heard before the Joint Congressional Energy Commission, in which P4P was invited to speak. Apart from these posts, which are clearly not hateful, threatening, or obscene, we have never posted any false information, alleged any officer employee of Meralco to have any personal scandal, nor made any criticism that cannot be backed up by facts,” said the group in an open letter to Facebook.

P4P on Tuesday sent an open letter to the US-based company, addressed to its local representative, Clare Amador, disputing the decision made by Facebook.

According to the group, Facebook owes it to its users to be transparent and impartial in its review processes.

“We want fairness and clarity on the part of Facebook. Who determines what is what in their Terms of Use? Do their users have a say, and how much? Even if Facebook claims they are a private company, by virtue of their dominance of social media and their assumption of regulatory powers over free speech, they are also saddled with the responsibility of being transparent to all,” said Arances.