As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly abated in 2022, the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) was able to engage in meetings, events and activities both in the country and abroad. Such active participation provided the organization, along with its partners, to collaborate and support each other’s campaigns. Driven by its mission to promote and defend the Filipinos’ right to information and communication, the FMA continued publishing reports, briefing papers, and policy papers on digital rights, gender, and privacy in 2022.
Though the world made strides towards recovery, socio-political challenges continued to abound. In 2022, the Philippines saw how rampant disinformation won Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr the top government position. Both within and beyond the country, issues like misinformation, online harassment, surveillance, and other digital rights issues continue to exist, if not worsen.
Confronted with these issues, this report summarizes the work FMA has done in 2022 to address them.
Initiative for Media Freedom
As a member of the Initiative for Media Freedom Consortium, FMA has aligned its work to their agenda to improve the environment for a free press; bolster capacity of media and other organizations to address disinformation; and strengthen self-regulation of the media.
In 2022, FMA organized a Digital Rights Camp, a three-day activity joined by 19 participants from various organizations working on women’s rights, internet rights, media, and social welfare. The format of the workshop was largely participants-led, resulting in rich and meaningful interactions on topics that interested the participants. These discussion points ranged from feminist principles of the Internet, election-based disinformation, circumventing independent media blocking, among many others. After the camp, a chatgroup was set up to ensure future collaboration among the participants and coordination for oncoming Digital Rights Coalition activities.
The FMA also published the Digital Rights Report for 2021 in 2022. This report covered the relevant issues of internet freedom, gender and information and communication, privacy and data protection, and information disorder. This was based on FMA’s steady monitoring of reports, press releases and articles on developments in technology and human rights in the country. This output also largely benefitted from the UP Internet’s curated reading list of news reports on digital rights.
Alongside these two milestones, the FMA worked with Filipino comic artists to mainstream media literacy among social media users, especially the youth. The roster of artists the FMA collaborated with included Tarantadong Kalbo, Kapitan Tambay, Marian Hukom, Manix Abrera, among others. Their work, which injected humor into the issues of democracy, misinformation, and press freedom, gained significant traction and engagement online. This generated serious discussion around these matters, proving this initiative’s impact. Given its success, the organization is looking into expanding the terms of partnership with these artists and working with more artists in the near future.
In the months leading up to the elections, FMA held the Share Mo Lang Voter’s Forum, an event born out of a partnership with the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, Break the Fake Movement, Out of the Box Media Literacy Initiative, and Yabong Philippines. The event was attended by 100 to 300 participants who discussed informed voting, verifying information, and the urgent platforms the candidates should address. Amid the harsh online environment typical to campaign periods, the Share Mo Lang Voter’s Forum gave the audience a safe venue to take part in an electoral discourse. After the elections, the FMA partnered with BarangayHub and UP Internet to host the online event titled Unpacking the Marcos Admin’s ICT Priorities. Here, experts and advocates alike examined President Marcos Jr.’s plans on addressing the information and communications technology of the country. The forum was attended by 20 participants and garnered 661 views on Facebook as of writing.
Another election-related event was conducted alongside UP Internet Freedom and Network. The Philippine Youth Digital Rights Electoral Agenda was launched online during the elections to talk about the issues digital rights advocates deemed urgent. Based on the Philippine Declaration of Internet Rights and Principles, this gathering of youth and digital advocates called for lawmakers to prioritize policies that could create a better digital environment for the Filipinos.
The FMA also actively participated in four IMF activities. From April to May, the organization joined in the Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing Report. On May 2, FMA attended the World Press Freedom Day Forum: Journalism Under Surveillance. A few days after, a brainstorming event was held. More than a month after the national elections too, FMA engaged in the Roundtable on Media in the Post-Election Philippines on June 23.
On top of these engagements with partners, FMA also worked closely with Filipino migrant women to know about the pressing digital rights issues concerning their sector. This was part of the consultations for the Philippine Declaration on the Internet Rights and Principles. Another related discussion was held with parishioners in the Let’s Take Back The Tech event.
Gender and ICT
Committed to shedding light on the intersection of gender and ICT, the Gender program has continued mapping cases of online gender-based violence (OGBV). In the last six months of 2022, 31 new OGBV cases were documented. This figure was sourced from the data from our partners, media reports, and first-hand accounts of victim-survivors. Out of this work, the program has written a year-end report on OGBV, detailing the location where these cases happened, the demographics of both victims and abusers, and the manner of the crime.
In line with the objective of understanding the condition of women in the digital world, the program has released numerous reports, papers, and newsletter to keep the intended audience of each material abreast of the developments on this matter. In February, the GenderScoop, a monthly newsletter of articles on gender and ICT, was launched, and as of December, it has gained 122 subscribers.
The program has also contributed to the IMF project, the Philippine Digital Report 2021. The team also served as a resource person for several speaking engagements and took part in meetings and consultations with legislators and civil society organizations both in the country and abroad. Digital security training and discussions were also conducted with advocacy groups and organizations.
As part of the mission to raise awareness on gender issues as well, the program organized four online discussions on the mandatory SIM Card registration’s consequences to women’s rights; the country’s laws on digital voyeurism; the election and women’s digital rights; and the gender-based violence in the digital world in the Philippines.
Aside from producing information, education, and communication (IEC) materials in various formats, the team addressed relevant and timely gender-related concerns through statements, briefing papers, and blog posts. In 2022, the program released a comic series on Understanding Hate and Hate Speech in the Philippine Context. The Gender program also kept watch of the existing bills and policies on gender and ICT, as in the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law, Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and SIM card Registration Act.
The Gender program also held an event with the Center for Migrant Advocacy in Iriga and Tabaco, Bicol to discuss migration in the time of the Internet with women migrant workers and their families. Given the vast engagements of the Gender program, the team built new partnerships with other organizations, such as Amnesty International, Yabong Philippines, Phuket Pinay Migrant Associations, among others.
Privacy and Data Protection
As the Privacy program’s work mainly revolves around research and policy analysis, the team focused on writing briefing papers on the two most pressing issue on privacy and data security in the country: the Philippine Identification System and SIM card Registration. These papers’ drafts were written in 2022 and were set to be released in 2023.
In line with this undertaking, the Privacy program also closely monitored bills related to privacy and data protection throughout the year, and worked with key government agencies. They disseminated research compilation, and engaged in activities related to amending the Data Privacy Act and Anti-Terror Law. Position papers were also written and submitted to the concerned agencies, as in the case of the position paper on the SIM card and Social Media Registration Bill, which was submitted to the Office of the President on March 2022. By the time this bill was passed as the SIM Card Registration Law, the Privacy program submitted another position paper for the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said act.
The FMA’s Privacy program also took part in various talks and speaking engagements as one of the resource persons on data rights and privacy. The team also worked with other CSOs in capacity-building activities to equip them to respond and participate in policy development. For this work, the program has earned media coverage from both print and digital media outlets.
Aside from research and policy development activities, the Privacy program also worked on raising awareness on the issue of privacy and data protection. They published the ID Watch, a monthly newsletter centered on news about data infrastructures, and released GIST, a project with the Lights Institute and Ateneo De Manila University Data Protection Office. They also partnered with comic artists to create a comic series on the perils of SIM Card Registration Act. On March 11, too, the team organized a Twitter Spaces event on SIM Card Registration. Jamael Jacob of the Privacy program also actively published opinion articles explaining and detailing policies and matters concerning data rights.
Similar to the previous years, the Privacy program submitted two Universal Periodic Reviews in collaboration with Privacy International, Association for Progressive Communications, Access Now, and Women’s Legal Bureau.
Mainstreaming Human Rights in Cybercrime and Cybersecurity
The Mainstreaming Human Rights in Cybercrime and Cybersecurity (MHRCC) project’s second phase ended in 2022. As it came to a close, the project successfully convinced at least four legislators to work on amending the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The project took part in legislative engagements and partnered with CSOs to plan and sustain the advocacy during Marcos Jr.’s administration.
The FMA also garnered support from four legislators in the amendment of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The organization called for the repealing of the provisions blatantly violating human rights, and favoring the petitioners calling for junking of the law. In conjunction with regular monitoring of news and developments on this legislation, the MHRC project also documented its relationship to the cybercrime law.
The MHRC project also assessed the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Plan for 2022, focusing on how it regarded human right, specifically the right to privacy and free expression. This was done through meeting with CSO partners and working closely with DICT.
In 2022, the social media platforms the organization used gained more followers, subscribers, and engagements. The FMA’s Facebook page, our main social media platform, earned 1,107 likes and reached 471,735 audience last year. Our Twitter and Instagram, on the other hand, listed more content in 2022, earning several engagements in each post. The FMA also sustained and maximized other platforms such as Medium and LinkedIn by tailoring our content to the audience of these websites.
Since awareness-raising is also part and parcel of FMA’s advocacy work, the communications officer worked jointly with the organization’s programs in generating and strategizing content. Together, we released newsletters, reports, podcasts and other IEC content pertinent to the work the organization does. Apart from these materials, FMA also released celebratory social media cards on commemorations like the National Press Week, World Health Day, PRIDE Month, and others as demonstration of our support to various causes.
Included in FMA’s communication work too is sustaining partnerships with the media and other advocacy groups. In 2022, the organization attended several virtual and face-to-face meetings with Rappler as part of their #FactsFirstPH coalition and Lighthouse Communities for Action. Through this partnership, FMA got to introduce itself and form networks to other groups and organizations who share similar values. The FMA also participated in the APC’s workshop titled Internet Rights are Human Rights and the organization’s campaign against hate speech.
Networking and Partnerships
Much of FMA’s work would not be possible without the help and guidance of our partners. In 2022, the organization built new partnerships as much as it strengthened existing ones.
The FMA continued being active as a Global Network Initiative fellow in 2022. The organization also maintained its membership in coalitions such as Movement Against Disinformation, iDefend, among others. Collaborating with student organizations like the UP Internet and grassroots coalition as in World March of Women-Philippines allowed the organization to reach and engage with students, teachers, women workers and human rights advocates.
The organization also took in interns from Alternatives Canada and the Ateneo de Manila University in 2022. Aside from assisting the organization, the student interns came up with articles, interviews, and podcasts for FMA.
The following organizations also helped sustain the work of FMA through grant-funding: Access Now, Privacy International, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Internews, and Global Partners Digital.
What’s Next for 2023
For 2023, the FMA will remain committed to advancing the issues of internet and human rights. It will reach out to more groups, organizations and sectors to fulfill its vision of a just and safe online environment. As FMA does this, the organization will also keep up with rising trends in ICT such as artificial intelligence, surveillance, and digital commerce. We will also continue keeping watch of the human rights abuse both in the online and physical world.
Since the country is also slowly slipping into the post-pandemic world, FMA is looking forward to hosting and joining physical events.