Yesterday, I was part of a public consultation held by the Presidential Communication Operations Office . It was a town hall themed event and had participation from attendees on-site and online — via Facebook and Twitter. Around twelve of us were resource persons given five minutes to give our comment on the draft policy. The audience also participated by giving comments and asking questions. I believe there may have been fears that it would have been an exclusive affairs with only supporters of the Administration rubber stamping the policy but for all those who were there and watched it was not. Different opinions were exchanged and heard.
Before proceeding further allow me to briefly introduce myself in order to give more layers to this post and transparency. Anyone who knows me and reads my blog, twitter and FB posts will know that I am a supporter of President Duterte, I was active in Edsa I and Edsa II but at the same time I voted for Bong Bong Marcos — primarily because he was one of those who successfully blocked a very flawed BBL agreement of the past administration. Also I am at present a senior media consultant for the PCOO and in the past I was also an information and indexing consultant for PCSDO . While true that I am a supporter of this admin and yes by way the consultancy part of it, This though does not stop me from giving my opinion through this blog and my other social network channels. In essence I can and still point what I see as good actions or bad actions.
So lets begin, What follows are my notes and reaction on what transpired yesterday:
First, The catalyst and credit must be given to Thinking Pinoy and company who when they visited the Palace ask if bloggers can cover the events and press conferences in Malacanang. President Duterte said yes.
Second, The draft policy of the PCOO is actually two documents. One, focused on the social media policy of the office of the President and Two, focuses on bloggers and social media publishers covering the events and press conferences of Malacanang or the office of the President. Some confusion may have arise because they were together and some features were linked. It would be best to separate the two policy since one covers the people and actions of the PCOO and the latter covers a different area of concern outside of the PCOO and different set of people — bloggers and social media publishers.
Third, The PCOO social media policy that sets guidelines for PCOO staff and also management of their digital platforms is good and its nothing new. Other government agencies and private companies — like media groups — have adapted such policies and for good reasons. One, member of government (or organization) is a representative of the office even in their spare time. Two, Internet and Digital platforms must be for official use only.
The draft social media policy of the PCOO is good and will be better with a few additions and additional staff support in order to make this work. One, Each media or material posted should be original and if not, permission should be asked from its creator on its use and proper attribution should be made. Two, the draft also contains a comment policy for all PCOO digital platforms; given the need to be active and interactive on this a team would be needed to moderate. Of course one can always use other forms of comment moderation — automatic or crowd sourced — but comments needs to be managed to fit the comment policy.
Now lets go to the blogger, social media publisher and social media user accreditation program.
First, It only covers Malacanang and the President.
Second, Bloggers, microbloggers, podcasters, and video bloggers or vloggers covering event is not a new thing or phenomenon. In the United States in government and in different sectors this has been done. Locally, I have been part of and witness the inclusion bloggers in news and events hosted by government agencies, businesses, local government, international organizations, NGOs and embassies. In such instances, Bloggers and company covered alongside other media people.
Third, There are things that needs to be amended in this draft. They can be summed up or describe using the acronym III:
This refers to two things. Information to be provided when a social and digital media publisher to the PCOO should be the bare minimum and its use confined only to the registry as defined in the data privacy law.
There should be no conditions that will affect the independence of those covering the events and press conferences. No requirements to post nor to curtail freedom of expression.
When and not if the Palace will accredit social media and digital media practitioners it should give same respect, rights, and treatment as traditional media.
Access to accreditation should be inclusive, meaning open to all. Allowing bloggers, social media publishers to cover Malacanang and the President is a democratic process: a digital democratic process and as such it should be inclusive. This means regardless of creed, political belief, number of followers; reach and metrics everyone who wants and can cover should be allowed to as long as he or she is a Filipino and has an established social media account or accounts that is proven belonging to the person and has consistently been active. The suggested twelve months active should be enough — since this will discourage instant accounts and even inactive ones. Perhaps one criteria that can be included in the policy would be and should be that the social media and digital media creators should be active in social media and active in covering event.
Why there should be no difference between social media publishers and social media users.
Bloggers, podcasters, microbloggers, vloggers. In fact, anyone using digital technology and the Internet to create content, publish content, share content, change content and comment on content is a publisher— whether one does it on a blog, on twitter, Facebook or any other digital publishing, social and sharing site online: digital platform. All of us are publishers of content; and if any one of us who wants to cover and has the times plus means to cover Malacanang should be allowed to. Individually or as a group. Also, our body of work will speak for itself.
The PCOO Social Media Town Hall was and is a good development. It should be noted that there are two and distinct parts of it. The first one refers to PCOO social media policy that will cover the PCOO and the different digital assets it manages. It also includes a commentary policy that covers the people working under the PCOO and engagement in the PCOO platforms. They, the PCOO, still has to determine how will it manage it is comment page. It does not cover nor should it cover social media behaviour of the entire populace — the different platforms have their community rules and standards; also there are other venues where bad and criminal behaviour online can be addressed.)]
Accreditation of Social Media and Digital publishers should be (I) Information sensitive to the privacy rights of all; (II) Independence, Social Media and Digital publishers should be accorded the freedom to write, post and share what one desires; (III) Inclusive to all who want and can cover Malacanang regardless of creed, politics, orientation, number of followers, reach and metrics.
Lastly, The importance of this exercise are two. First, The adaptation of the PCOO to a social media policy and Second, the democratization of engagement between the citizens and its government using digital and social technology platforms — making it inclusive , independent, open, constructive and productive.