Three major social media companies operating in the Philippines have responded to the government’s call to combat the widespread peddling of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation, according to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Sunday.

In a statement, PCO Undersecretary for Digital Media Services Emerald Ridao announced that they have partnered with Meta, Google, and TikTok to launch a digital defense initiative aimed at curbing misinformation and disinformation efforts targeting government programs and certain individuals.

“We are starting with our digital defense today because it is very clear to us that misinformation and disinformation campaigns against the government programs, and against the persons within the administration are increasingly prevalent,” Ridao said during the UniCom 2024 gathering held at the Bayleaf in Intramuros, Manila.

“And so, we’re hoping that together we can ban together and really put an end to this problem within our digital sphere,” she added.

During the event, Tech Talks became a rallying point for various stakeholders to combat the spread of incorrect or misleading information on digital platforms, including social media, websites, and messaging apps.

Officials from META, Google, and TikTok, were at the UniCom to share insights and expertise on the different aspects of misinformation and disinformation.

META Public Manager Genixon David reminded the public to always keep their social media accounts secured as he stressed the security of one’s social media account “is dependent on the security” of their account.

“As much as possible, let’s make our password strong and unique,” David said.

David said the public should avoid using their name, birthday, address or other identified as their passwords, and avoid re-using password in multiple accounts to avoid being compromised.

“The security check up will help you log out of unused apps and browsers, manager alerts, and strengthen your password. While the privacy check-up will help you review who gets in your posts and information from your profile, like your phone number and email address,” he said.

Google Head of Government Affairs Yves Gonzales said YouTube does not allow any content that poses a serious risk of harm by spreading medical information that contradicts local health authorities, or guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

Gonzales added that YouTube’s mission is to give the public a voice on social media and give them the go-to platform where they will learn, get entertained and to create an audience through their channel.

“YouTube has basically democratized having an audience, as an open platform, users like you, [like] individual users and governments come to YouTube on a voluntary basis and you have the full control over when, if and what kind of content you choose to upload,” he said.

For his part, TikTok head of public policy in the Philippines and Malaysia Toff Rada highlighted the significance of building “critical thinking” especially when users cannot distinguish between right and wrong content.

“Even if you remove the bad pieces of content, even if you put up the right pieces of content, if your user cannot distinguish between right and wrong, then it is of no use. So, I think we have to build that critical thinking,” Rada said.

Aside from discussing efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation, the conference also shed light on the tangible challenges faced by government agencies, including account hacking and the propagation of “fake news.”

Proposals were also discussed to alleviate the risks, which include abstaining from the widespread reporting of compromised accounts and advocating for the cultivation of critical thinking skills.

The PCO, META, Google and TikTok stood firm to confront online challenges and ensure to safeguard the integrity of public discourse.