NTC tells tech giants to halt sales of ‘text blast’ kit after election plug

October 13, 2021 - 8:27 PM
People checking smartphones
Image by Dean Moriarty via Pixabay

MANILA — The Philippines has ordered tech giants Facebook, Alibaba Lazada and Sea’s Shopee to stop allowing sales of cellular equipment used for emergency messaging, after “text blasts” were used to promote a presidential election candidate.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the platforms to appear before the agency on Oct. 27 to explain why they should not be held liable for allowing sales of the equipment.

The NTC’s order, made public on Tuesday, follows an investigation it ordered last week into an “emergency alert” text blast, typically used during natural disasters, that contained message of support for one of the presidential candidates.

Under local laws, the sale, manufacture and importation of equipment that can send a mass text message for free would require NTC approval.

The NTC has said the mobile text alerts must have come from illegal channels since the emergency Alert Short Message Service is used by disaster agencies.

Lazada Philippines has removed the products mentioned by the regulator and is committed to “strong action” against violators, a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our team does a daily manual sweep for product listings that violate existing policies and these are removed once identified,” the spokesperson said.

Facebook said it will work with authorities to take down unlawful listings on its Marketplace platform.

“When we receive a report from the appropriate legal authority about unlawful content, we will review and take appropriate action,” a spokesperson said.

Shopee Philippines and Sea did not immediately respond to requests for comment. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty