(Bloomberg) — The Philippine government ordered Facebook Inc., Lazada Group and Sea Ltd’s Shopee to stop selling unregistered portable mobile phone transmitters, which local media said may be used by politicians campaigning for the May 2022 elections.
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The National Telecommunications Commission said the sale of these devices, which can send text messages to nearby mobile-phone users, violates the law on radio control as well as an order prohibiting the use of portable cellular mobile repeaters.
The transmitters were being sold for as much as 3 million pesos ($59,200) each in online stores, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Oct. 10, adding that political groups may be secretly using them.
The NTC told the online shops to stop selling the device marketed as “Hitech SMS Blaster,” and requested their representatives to appear before the commission on Oct. 27, according to the regulator’s Oct. 11 order. The equipment may not be sold, bought or used except by the disaster management council and other authorized state agencies in times of emergency, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said in a mobile-phone message.
Lazada has removed the products highlighted by the NTC, a company spokesman said, adding that it won’t hesitate “to take strong actions against parties found involved in illegal activities.”
Facebook will “work with the relevant authorities to receive take down requests on any listings that are locally unlawful in the Philippines,” a company spokesperson said. “When we receive a report from the appropriate legal authority about unlawful content, we will review and take appropriate action.”
Earlier this month, the NTC ordered an investigation into emergency text blasts announcing the presidential bid of ex-senator Bongbong Marcos as the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was filing his candidacy.
(Updates to add comment from Facebook in sixth paragraph.)
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