Challenged by the many perils that people fall prey to online, Ben&Ben connects with Google and confronts the conditions in their act of advocacy aptly called, Mag-Ingat.
“Naloko na ba kayo online?” asks Ben&Ben on their Twitter page, followed by an account detailing how in apparent haste and mechanical trust, they tagged Google Philippines in their video post on Instagram. Seems routine, right? Well, upon checking, the local arm of the tech juggernaut has no such account. “Ang lesson dito: sa sobrang daming fake accounts ngayon, we always need to make sure na legitimate yung social media accounts that we interact with because engaging with fake accounts makes us vulnerable to scams, hacking and fake information,” the folk pop band says, owning up to the momentary lapse in judgment, which in all honesty, has happened to many of us at one point or another of our existence on the internet.
Naloko na ba kayo online? ? (A thread)— Ben&Ben (@BenAndBenMusic) February 8, 2022
Following this all too relatable story time, a lot shared their own experiences ranging from easy ways to earn offers, internet phishing, falling prey to fake news and misinformation from parody accounts, false identities, and of course, sketchy sale scams. Of course, no conversation on internet safety is complete without a self-deprecating allusion to love. “Sa pag-ibig oo dati,” replies Paolo Benjamin in jest.
Whether in matters of the heart or interactions online, responsibility, accountability, and safety are of prime important now more than ever. In its ease and convenience, it has made it easier to manufacture personalities, experiences, and opinions, all without a morsel of consequence other than oneself. A lot of the foolery on the internet, if one thinks about it, is rooted in selfishness, and this time, Ben&Ben is not just throwing around words in a matter of lip service, they’re walking the talk by educating and entertaining through song.
Clearly, just like you and I, they have had enough of the asinine, venomous, and most of the time, downright evil world that the internet has become. So, in solidarity for everyone who has had a negative experience online and an expression of active participation, Ben&Ben has connected with Google in its commitment to help Filipinos use the internet safely, honestly, and responsibly. The result is, Mag-Ingat, a bubbly and buoyant song that has all the elements of an endearing Ben&Ben signature: vivid storytelling, relevant lyricism, and a symphony of swinging and swaying instrumentations that is bonded in a colorful exposition that is above everything, authentic.
“Filipinos are highly social people and most of us interact with one another digitally. In such a world, it’s no wonder that while the internet brings so many advantages, it also opens us up to many dangers if we are not careful enough,” explains Miguel Benjamin. “With Mag-Ingat, we wanted to use our music to spread awareness on such a timely and important issue–because all of us are responsible for making sure that the internet is a safe and positive space for everyone.”
Consciously less preachy and more playful, Mag-Ingat is not only catchy, but also is a necessary depiction of what the digital space has devolved into. Far from the ideal of it being an absolute safe space, it has become a cesspool for by-the-second threats such as scams, catfishing, and revisionism. Dangerous by all means, the tune underscores critical thinking, cross referencing, and verifying information to protect oneself and others as well. “The internet is such a communal space,” Miguel Benjamin furthers, dissecting the song through the lens of creativity and community. “No matter where you are from, saan man sa mundo, it’s such a communal space. There are certain responsibilities that come along with it and you can’t just do anything that you want.”
A Safer Internet, Please
Liberty is often thrown around in the framework of opinion and expression, sans the reality of responsibility. And in this act of advocacy with Google, Ben&Ben is challenging that. Confronting this concept that has corroded much of our lives, as well as of the relationships that form its network of lifelines, the band really sought out to compose a good song and good video to really drive the message that is not only timely and necessary, but also close to their hearts, home.
“With songs with themes such as this, there’s an initial tendency to treat it as if it’s not a personal experience. We tend to treat these things and advocacies separate from our personal lives but that’s not the case, especially in terms of Internet safety,” explains Paolo Benjamin. “So to simply put, we tapped into instances of something we’ve all experienced in its simplest forms.” Lifting the veil of their creative process on TikTok, Ben&Ben details the immense responsibility and sense of fun seamed into this collaboration with Google.
@benandbenmusic WAHHH We’re building a song for Google! Ito po yung step by step mga paps #benandbenmusic #musictok #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Ben&Ben
“It’s a very fun song with the melodies and the lyrics, it’s super playful so we approached it with that kind of mindset and heart,” shares Poch Barretto. “It’s also kind of daring creatively, it’s different in terms of the arrangement. Something I took from [this project] is that in freedom, there’s still responsibility.”
Continuing this conversation, the band says, “We really just wanted to make the song fun, that was another challenge we had. So, we just had fun and played with it. Besides the message of the song, we had a lot of fun creating it. The contrast of having fun with makes it easier for a song with a message as important and profound as this to connect with people.”
The Light Is Coming
Of course, a song can only do so much. What an undertaking of this magnitude needs policies and products that will ensure that the internet inches closer to being the safe space it was built to be, and most importantly, protect the people whose lives exist by extension on the digital plane. In a cohesive action, Google stands by its intentions and dedication to a safer internet with tools and measures to help keep things proper and responsible, you know, before the joy is completely drained off our connections online.
Apart from deepening local partnerships to promote digital propriety, such as the cyberspace peace initiative of local NGO, Teach Peace Build Peace Movement, it also has in place security systems such as two-step verification process, as well as password checkups. This way, the preying forces online will not only be limited but hopefully eliminated completely. It’s an effort of epic proportions, but hey, here’s to wishing that slowly and surely, when Ben&Ben asks, “naloko na ba kayo online,” we can ultimately answer, not anymore.
It’s a long way to go, for sure, but inspired by this sense of duty and their corresponding due diligence, the resonant Mag-Ingat functions as a reminder to really double check and double down on how to properly navigate the tempestuous waters of the internet. “Mag-ingat sa pang-aabuso / Ingat sa pang-aapi / Ingat ka sa nakatago / May balak na marumi,” it warns in the song, before rounding it out in a rousing call to arms. “Nasa ating kamay / Wala nang kakayahan / Suriing mabuti ang nababasa /Na sa ating kamay / Puso ang kakayahang / Na sigurado na tayo’y nag-iingat.”
For now, be safer, internet.