SAN FRANCISCO, California — Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter announced today that they are set to roll out new features specifically for Philippine netizens that would help them combat or avoid online libel.
“When someone in the Philippines tries to type a possible libelous status update, Facebook algorithms detects this and suggests alternative posts that a user might want to consider,” Facebook wrote in a recent addition to its help page.
According to the help page, Facebook suggestions will try to stay as relevant as possible with the message that you’re trying to convey, but will sometimes deviate or rephrase your status update entirely if what you’re trying to say is really-really libelous.
This would be the first time that the social networking giant made a feature specifically for a country.
“We decided to add this feature so as to protect our users against tyrannical, oppressive and backward-thinking politicians in the Philippines,” said Facebook CEO Mark Suckerberg.
He added, “When political image and vanity of elected officials trumps freedom of expression of the masses, you know that something is wrong in a country that prides itself of so-called democracy.”
The newly announced feature is still being rolled out, so it’s not available to everyone just yet. Facebook tests features in stages so that an unforeseen bug doesn’t hit its entire network at once, but it should be widely available to Philippine netizens in the next few weeks.
Coincidentally, Twitter also announced that it is set to roll-out new features to make Filipinos’ tweets “online-libel-proof”.
In a tweet posted this morning, the microblogging service revealed that new features will roll out on the 25th that will “suppress freedom of expression” for Filipino Twitter users. It ended its tweet with the hashtag #Ironic because the country will also celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution on the same day.
Netizens should expect the following features when they compose a tweet on Tuesday:
- The “Twitter Sarcasm Font” – A special font that will replace the default one when the servers detect a hint of sarcasm in a person’s tweet. It will automatically replace the typeface before posting it to your timeline. To be extra sure, the sarcastic word will have a different font and will be boldfaced.
- The “Twitter Auto-Rephraser” – This new feature would rephrase your libelous tweet into a non-libelous tweet. If your original tweet’s intention was to malign someone specifically, the rephrased version won’t. Although less hard-hitting, the rephrased version will hopefully save you the time and money not defending yourself in court.
- The Automatic “With All Due Respect” Hashtag Inserter – As the name implies, Twitter will automatically insert a #WithAllDueRespect hashtag at the beginning of your tweets so as to remove any malicious intent that your thoughts might have against our elected officials.
No word yet whether other social networking sites like Instagram and Tumblr would follow suit in adding features to protect netizens’ freedom of speech. Stay tuned.