'Stop Selling Text Blasters:' NTC Orders Facebook, Lazada, and Shopee
Ecommerce platforms such as Lazada, Shopee and even Facebook must stop selling unregistered portable mobile phone transmitters, or text blasters, which could be used during the campaign for the 2022 elections, the National Telecommunications Commission said on Wednesday, (October13).
In a report on Bloomberg, the NTC said these mobile transmitters violates the law on radio control as well as an order prohibiting the use of portable cellular mobile repeaters. These kinds of equipment are able to send text messages to mobile phones within a specific geographic location.
Based on an order dated Oct 11, the NTC directed online shops to stop selling the device marketed as “Hitech SMS Blaster.”
Citing a report on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Bloomberg said such gadgets were being sold for as much as P3 million.
The Inquirer report quoted a telco executive, who said that the text blast machines were being “weaponized” and “their use was already prevalent in smaller towns during the 2019 elections.”
“They can, for instance, spoof the [mobile] number of a mayoralty candidate on the last day to say ‘I have withdrawn from the race,’” the report added.
This is why the NTC has ordered that these types of equipment “may not be sold, bought or used except by the disaster management council and other authorized state agencies in times of emergency,” Bloomberg quoted NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios as saying.
Representatives for the online stores were also ordered to appear before the NTC on Oct. 27.
When Bongbong Marcos filed his certificate of candidacy for president earlier this month, people around the vicinity of the filing center in Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel reported receiving emergency text blasts about the announcement. NTC officials said they ordered an investigation into the incident.
Representatives of Marcos said they supported the investigation, saying that the campaign may have been victims of targeted attacks by political opponents.