Media Security Chief Joel Egco’s Tips on Staying Safe on Social Media

Perhaps foreseeing the impact of arming the press with the Freedom of Information executive order which allows them greater access to information on government transactions and records, President Rodrigo Duterte also created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) which is supposed to investigate work related media killings as well as provide protection for journalists under threat.

In about a week’s time, the FOI executive order will take effect and while government agencies are preparing for its implementation, the PTFoMS has also set out to fulfill its mandate at a blistering pace.

At the first regular meeting, the order of the day was to finalize the task force’s operational guidelines so that the National Prosecution Service, NBI, PNP, AFP, Presidential Commission on Human Rights and other agencies can work interlocked to protect media workers under threat as well as prosecute those who injure and kill media workers.

14993358_1247385121950093_2936681524305660891_nThe day after the meeting, Joel Sy Egco, who heads the PTFoMS as Executive Director with the rank of undersecretary, sped off to Pangasinan to look into the recent shooting of radio commentator and columnist Virgilio “Ver” Maganes. Soon after that, Usec. Egco also requested the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (PNP-DIDM) to investigate death threats received by DZXL news anchor Lourdes Escaros and provide her with police protection.

Somewhere in between, Joel led the task force to submit two sets of case inventories involving media killings to the Office of the President.  list will be harmonized as the task force re-assesses each case with the objective of pursuing further investigation and pushing for the prosecution of those who threatened, injured, or killed media workers who were just doing their jobs.

The kicker is that Joel hasn’t received his appointment papers yet and the PTFoMS is functioning without a budget.

If it seems that Joel is pursuing his mandate with fire in his belly, it is because he himself had been a target of threats as well as had a brother and an uncle who was killed.

In a comment on a Facebook status update, Joel says “Masakit mamatayan. Kapatid ko binaril sa likod nahati ang bala tumama sa baga at bato nung 2000. Patay. Uncle ko sa antipolo 13 ang tama sa katawan napagkamalang npa kasama pa ang tatlong kaibigan nya. Patay. Tumalsik sa akin ang utak niya nung nakatutok ako sa autopsy. Sa parehong kaso unipormado mga suspek.

English translation: “It hurts to suffer the death of someone close to you. My brother was shot in the back, the bullet fragmented then hit his lung and kidney in year 2000. He died. An uncle in Antipolo was shot 13 times after he was mistaken for an NPA along with three other friends. He also died. His brains splattered on me while I was observing his autopsy. In both cases, the suspects were uniformed.

Knowing about how Joel had been a target and perhaps is still being targeted, I grabbed an opportunity to ask him about how he goes about looking after his own safety and security.

“Stealth is key. You can be armed to the teeth but if leave yourself open to any attack, the people after you will use that opportunity. One thing that makes media workers vulnerable is their use of social media and it is best to check how one has set up their social media account to make it more difficult for attackers to track their movements or zero in on an opportunity to attack,” said Joel.

In a Facebook status update, Joel listed down the steps he has undertaken to shield himself from attacks online as well as in real life:

My personal “HOW TOs” in avoiding unnecessary “enemies” on Facebook.

  1. Clean up friend’s list by just leaving it exclusively for family, relatives, close friends, workmates and others whom I deem “worthy” (naks! yabang! LOL)

  2. Limit posts to personal, family and friendly affairs. Message settings etc should be tighter, stricter.

  3. Create a separate page, different account and name where I can freely express my thoughts and beliefs, political or otherwise. It is where I can entertain favorable, adverse or even “trollish” opinion.

  4. If someone’s attempting to piss me off on my personal page, BLOCK.

  5. If any self-righteous, conceited, condescending friend is trying to patronize him or herself on my wall, UNFRIEND. (Marami pa naman silang matitino at hindi naman nila malalaman na unfriended sila at least sa FB lang. Harhar!)

  6. If I engage trolls in a wasteful, senseless conversation, then I’m an idiot. DEACTIVATE.

  7. If I fail to do step number 6 and continue to engage bashers, trolls and haters in an endless cycle of worthless IQ contests on my personal page, then I’m a real idiot. Shift to Twitter (less talk, less mistake)

To Joel’s list, here are other ways which you can keep your Facebook account secure:

  1. Enable the dual log-in verification for your Facebook account. This will alert you immediately if someone else other than you is trying to gain access to your Facebook account.
  2. If you don’t want your Facebook account to be found through Google search and only want people within your extended social circles to find you on Facebook, you should use the following settings shown below:

    screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-8-54-06-am – “Who can contact me?” should be set to friends of friends.
    –  “Who can look me up?” (via email and phone number) should be set to friends only.
    – “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” should be toggled OFF.

  3. Carefully select the audience for each of your posts. You can do this by making use of the friend bookmark feature of Facebook here and grouping your Facebook friends. You can create a list for your family members, friends, workmates and so on. After doing this, you will have additional options in the privacy dropdown list comprised of the lists you created. This will enable you to make your posts visible only to a specific set of Facebook friends and limit the possibility of people you hardly know making use of information you intended to share only with a few select friends.

    screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-8-35-00-am

  4. Be aware that attackers will use pictures of your home, place of work, the church you go to, and other places that you regularly go to figure out when and where you will most likely be vulnerable. The best way to deal with this is NOT to post pictures or video which will reveal the exact layout of your home, office, or other places you usually stay in.
  5. If you have a car, DO NOT post a picture showing its license plate or any identifiable markings.
  6. Disable your smartphone’s ability to track your location. Turn it on only if you need to use Waze.
  7. Enable your Facebook’s legacy contact. This will enable a family member or friend to gain access to your Facebook account and help the law enforcement investigators examine your Facebook account for leads should you be attacked and incapacitated. To enable Facebook legacy contact, you can click here.

There are more settings that you can modify to make your Facebook account more secure, but this will entail a much longer post than I have time for today.

If you need help with this, you can get in touch with me here.

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