Meta Accused of Ignoring Philippine Order to Remove Illegal E-sabong Pages from Facebook

Last month, the Philippines’ politely asked ISPs, as well as Facebook, to block e-sabong pages. Unfortunately, Facebook apparently doesn’t respond to politeness since, as of yesterday, it hadn’t taken any action against the illegal cockfighting gambling pages.

Facebook HQ’s sign before the company rebranded to Meta. The platform is allegedly ignoring an order in the Philippines to remove illegal e-sabong content. (Image: CNN)

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a final appeal for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to remove any Facebook pages that promote illegal online sabong operations. Jonathan Malaya, DILG Undersecretary, urged the public in a statement to support the ban of all illegal e-sabong operations on social media in an effort to end the “social menace” that has affected families.

Malaya, noted that, as of May 1, the department had not received a response to its letter sent to Meta regarding the illegal e-sabong networks. In the last week of May, there were at least eight such pages, including groups and accounts, the Philippines identified on the social media platform.

Facebook Ignores Social Menace

Malaya accused Facebook of violating Philippine law by not taking action. He warned that, should the company continue to ignore the DILG’s order, there could be legal repercussions.

Shortly after Malaya issued his statement, Meta came forward and said that it had responded appropriately. It added that it doesn’t allow “facilitating, organizing and promoting criminal or harmful activities targeted at animals on our platforms.”

We want to remind Meta Platforms, Inc., that they, as a Philippine business entity, are subject to Philippine laws, regulations, and rules and must adhere to them at all costs,” stated DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

However, it only allegedly intervened after the DILG began to put pressure on the company. A quick search of the Facebook platform, though, still shows several e-sabong groups and pages active in the Philippines.

Changing Public Sentiment

After a survey by the DILG, then-President Duterte issued an order to suspend online sabong in May. The survey found that e-sabong had a negative social impact that could lead to addiction. The disappearance of over 30 cockfighting fans influenced the decision, as well.

The DILG conducted its survey in all major cities and municipalities across the country through its field and regional offices. 8,463 people completed the exercise between April 19-20, 2022, overwhelmingly supporting a ban. That public opinion assessment became the foundation to give Duterte a base for his decision regarding the fate of e–sabong.

62% of the respondents wanted to stop e-sabong, according to the survey results. The activity became prominent in the community quarantine during the last two years.

COVID-19 had made it more difficult for people to attend live fights. 34%, however, wanted e-sabong to continue, but with tighter regulations. Only 4% supported the activity.

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