Comelec defends 'verified' requirement for candidates' social media pages

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — The Commission on Elections on Monday defended its 2022 policy requiring candidates to only use platform-verified social media pages to mount online ads and other materials despite uproar among some aspirants.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said over the weekend that the poll body will work with YouTube to add a verified badge to the official channels of candidates, which they will use to mount promotional content.

In a tweet, election lawyer Emil Marañon said the policy appears unconstitutional, while senatorial aspirant and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares said he is scrambling to gain more subscribers to get verified.

Jimenez said candidates do not need to amass at least 100,000 subscribers to get the rare check mark beside their usernames on the platform, doing away with the verification standard through the poll body's deal with YouTube.

"We want to make sure that there's accountability for the information that they push out, and we want to make sure also that they have a credible source they can trust so that people will be able to differentiate between fake news and real news because of where it's coming from," he explained.

"That's the equivalent of a candidate saying 'I approved this message.' (It’s) one of the solutions or strategies for fighting fake news to help people identify credible sources of news."

Despite the uproar online, Jimenez said no one has officially questioned the policy by writing to the Commission en banc.

"We are not really going to be changing policy just because some people on the internet misunderstood the provision," Jimenez added.

Social media firms like Facebook are also asked to submit data about online ads paid for by the candidates, parties, or their donors.

The poll body is looking to regulate the online space more during the campaign period, with social media seen to be an even bigger battleground for the 2022 race with the pandemic seen to limit physical campaign activities.