Celebrity suicide: one of the most difficult things to report on—SHARP EDGES by JAKE J. MADERAZO

December 19, 2023 - 08:42 AM


“Irresponsible presentations of suicide in news and information can influence copycat acts”. “The findings of the current review should be interpreted not as a call for censorship of media; it is acknowledged that the media has a role to play in raising awareness of suicide as a public health issue”. “Rather, the findings should be interpreted as an indication that media presentation of suicide should be done responsibly and balanced against the public’s “right to know”.

These are the conclusions of a study entitled “Suicide and the news and information media”- a critical review written by Jane Pirkis et al commissioned by Mindframe-Everymind of the Australian Department of Health in 2019. It covered celebrity and non-celebrity suicides from over the world, in Germany, UK, South Korea, Japan Taiwan and the US.

These findings amplify the tremendous challenges facing a journalist and his news organization on whether to break or not and how to report this tragedy.  The normal thing that happens is to wait for confirmation from a family member or family associate”.  But, in actor Ronaldo Valdez’ case, tensions increase inside the newsroom when sudden death is handled and released by police (QCPD) and the “respect for privacy” principle is thrown away.  In addition, the grieving next of kin understandably remained unavailable for hours to confirm or deny the event.

In a circulating text message that day purportedly from QCPD, the victim was pronounced dead around 4:16 pm in St. Luke’s Hospital with the title “Alleged Suicide by shooting). This triggered different tweets and reports by local media. It was only until yesterday morning that Janno Gibbs issued an official statement on the passing of his father.  The next morning only a few newspapers wrote the suicide angle.

But to most of us, the said incident has profound consequences among which is the fear of possible copycat cases as suggested in that Australian study. It is perhaps correct to say that this incident will be talk of the town for many years to come. Why has it happened? And what led to his passing and what about other family matters?

Importantly, the media and the police should always respect the privacy of the family here. The Gibbs were shocked but what caused the commotion is the inadvertent release of that police report and its preliminary conclusion. Something that we in media and the police must learn from moving forward.  As media men, we must continue to seek meaningful information that serves a legitimate public need to know, while being respectful and compassionate to those whose personal privacy may be intruded upon.

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, “not cooperating” with govt vs. online scams

In this age of “deep fakes” and other AI technologies, numerous fake news advertisements promoting illegal scams proliferate and government is rendered almost helpless.   In most cases, these are fake giveaways, romance scams, fake job offers, bogus apps, identity theft schemes, fraudulent surveys, privacy scams, fake charities, games and quizzes, fake profiles, fake login pages, shopping cams instant loans and many others. In most cases, a famous person or a media personality are presented using fake voice overs, recommend a fake product or solicit to make money. We could see these examples through entries on Shopee, Lazada, and in Facebook’s Marketplace, Instagram, X and TikTok.

According to the latest report of the Global anti-Scam Alliance (GASA) and Gogolook, the industry leading caller ID app, WHOSCALL, the Philippines has the highest rate of shopping scams in Asia.  An advocacy movement, Scam Watch Pilipinas, says Facebook is the most common platform where Filipinos face scam risks with 72.3 percent of respondents saying they have received scam messages or calls on the platform. And quite sadly, online victims usually do not file complaints unlike in other countries. In Australia, a fake video of TV anchorman Allison Langdon was used by criminals in an investment scam, and this was investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Scam watch.

Today, Hotline 1326 is available to help online victims file their respective complaints. This online number was organized by Scam watch with the help of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), the DICT, NTC and the National Press Club. But little action is done by government.  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed during a recent cybersecurity summit, to file a protest social media company over scams and other illegal activities on their platforms.

CICC executive director Alexander Ramos lamented that social media platforms have become “so big” that they no longer give attention to small countries like ASEAN.

“The CICC is eyeing legal action against social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter), over the proliferation of online scams and they should expect an official complaint coming”.   “They are not cooperating on the implementation of our local laws when it comes to online e-commerce”, he added. From my understanding, all online complaints against a scammer whether on Facebook, Instagram, X or TikTok is considered pure business between the platform and its fake sellers.  And therefore, all pertinent documents on said scams are internal and cannot be used in criminal or civil complaints in government.  And to add salt to injury, these fake sellers continue to appear and are not immediately taken down by the giant social media platforms.  In this country, we cannot even force them to explain nor pay up and compensate our local victims unlike in Europe and the US where consumer data are sacred.

So, If CICC remains true to its promise to sue in court these social media giants, we should applaud it as the needed first step in protecting our online kababayans.  And if possible, the courts can swiftly act and decide on these scam cases, so these social media giants are held responsible for their gross disrespect of our nation’s laws.  So that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the DICT can immediately suspend or close their multi-billion-peso business in the country if their acts are proven guilty by our local courts. (end)

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