NTC tells Facebook, Lazada PH, Shopee PH: Stop selling text blast machines

NTC tells Facebook, Lazada PH, Shopee PH: Stop selling text blast machines

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered US tech giant Facebook and e-commerce companies Lazada and Shopee to immediately stop selling text blast machines, saying this violated the law.

The NTC on Tuesday filed show cause and cease and desist orders against Facebook (Marketplace) Philippines, Lazada E-Services Philippines Inc., and Shopee Philippines.

The orders were dated October 11 and were issued on Tuesday.

These came in the wake of an Inquirer report on October 10 detailing the sale of illicit radio equipment such as text blast machines via popular online shopping sites.

The NTC said in the orders it has not authorized the importation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of devices such as Hitech SMS Blaster, SMS Location Blasting System, and other similar products found on their platforms.

The sale of equipment appeared to violate Republic Act 3846 or The Radio Control Law and various rules and regulations such as memorandum order 01-02-2013 titled the Prohibition of Portable Cellular Mobile Repeater and Portable Cell Site Equipment, the regulator added.

Based on the Radio Control Law, NTC permits and a Congressional franchise were required to operate radio stations.

The companies were thus ordered to “cease and desist from selling the above-mentioned and similar equipment regulated by the Commission.”

Moreover, they were ordered to appear before the Commission on October 27 and explain in writing why they should not be “held liable for such violations as well as subject the violative products/equipment to confiscation and forfeiture.”

The e-commerce platforms earlier removed some of the listings on their sites while Facebook did not take any immediate action after being alerted by the Inquirer.

The small box-like devices, which cost anywhere from about P200,000 to P3 million, can blast up to 100,000 text messages per hour in a target location free of telco charges.

They are also virtually invisible on cellular networks and have the ability to fabricate or obscure the origin of texts, making them ideal for political information and disinformation campaigns.

Sellers previously told the Inquirer politicians or political groups were their top buyers and the wares were imported from Malaysia and Germany.