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Facebook removes fake accounts linked to PNP and AFP

Fake social media accounts meant to mislead Filipinos and supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte are linked to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Facebook revealed.

In an announcement Tuesday, September 22, Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company removed accounts found to have links with both government agencies.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” Facebook reported.

Gleicher said Facebook’s investigation found two separate networks originating from the Philippines and China that violate the company’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“We removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity,” Gleicher said.  

In the Philippines, Facebook removed 57 fake Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Gleicher explained the people behind the activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing.

He said that Facebook found the full scope of the activity after civil society in the country and news organization Rappler brought it to the company’s attention.

In support of the Dutertes

Facebook said that the networks focused on posting content supportive of Duterte and her daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Carpio’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential elections.

(Malacanan photo)

They also posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events, including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong.

The fake accounts also uploaded criticisms of Rappler, issues relevant to overseas Filipino workers as well as praise and some criticism of China.

The network in the Philippines consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage pages, Facebook reported.

The operation appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, the company said.

“They posted in Filipino and English about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Gleicher said.  

The accounts spend around $1,100 for ads on Facebook that are paid for in Philippine peso, he added.

A post by one of the removed fake accounts. (Taken from the Facebook announcement)

How much are the PNP and AFP spending?

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed Facebook’s move it said is “a damning evidence of State-sponsored online attacks, red-tagging and mass deception in the social media platform.”

“We welcome Facebook’s move as urgently-needed action to put a halt on the worsening red-tagging and State-backed disinformation campaigns on the platform and we hope that Facebook can do more,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said it was among the organizations that complained to Facebook and the Commission on Human Rights through a June 9 letter.

The group said that the more pressing question, however, is whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the fake Facebook accounts.

Karapatan said the substantial amount reported by Facebook is wasted on the Duterte government’s efforts to spread disinformation as well as undermine and vilify dissent.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and instead, the investigation conducted by Facebook highly suggests that the government is spending our taxes to weaponize social media to spread lies online and to attack its critics — and the actual amount of money they have spent and pocketed can be much, much higher,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pahayag ng UP-Diliman Student Council hinggil sa mga fake account sa social media

Kinondena ng University of the Philippines-Diliman University Student Council hinggil ang dumaraming fake account sa Facebook laban sa mga aktibista at mga tumututol sa Anti-Terrorism Bill na ipinasa ng Kongreso noong nakaraang linggo.

Ani UP-USC Councilor Froilan Cariaga, ang mga fake account ay isang patunay na ibayong tititindi ang panggigipit sa mga kritiko ng gubyerno kapag ganap na naging batas ang Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas)

Fake pro-Duterte Facebook pages taken down

Facebook took down about 200 pages and accounts pro-Duterte Instagram and Facebook accounts organized by his social media manager in his 2016 campaign, Nic Gabunada last Friday, March 29, for their proliferation of fake accounts.

“[These] frequently posted about local and political news, including topics like the upcoming elections, candidate updates and views, alleged misconduct of political opponents, and controversial events that were purported to occur during previous administrations. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to a network organized by Nic Gabunada,” Facebook said.

Cartoon by Mark Suva/Kodao

On the Disinformation and Harassment Against ‘Tu Pug Imatuy’

By the Concerned Artists of the Philippines

We condemn the uploading of black propaganda against the film Tu Pug Imatuy (2017), directed by Arnel Barbarona who is a member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Set in Mindanao, Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill) revolves around the story of Manobo couple caught amidst anti-insurgency operations by the Philippine military in a community targetted for mining operations, inspired by a lumad’s actual account of similar events in the region. A notable work of independent, regional, and progressive cinema, the acclaimed film recently completed a series of screenings since its premiere and successive wins at the Sinag Maynila 2017 Film Festival, the Gawad Urian, and the Famas awards.

On September 21, an anonymously-produced video was uploaded and shared via Facebook. It branded Tu Puy Imatuy as a “deceptive indie film” full of untruths and with ties to the CPP-NDF-NPA. The video used film clips, obviously without permission from the filmmaker. It was flagged but continues to be uploaded across other fake news sites. Barbarona also noted a recent incident that points to the possibility of him being surveilled.

The release of such black propaganda is an assault on freedom of expression and the freedom of the artist to critique, reflect or respond to social realities. This sends the message that artistic and creative works that contradict the narrative of the Duterte administration can and will be attacked with impunity.

These acts of vilification on social media happen at a time when alarmist spectres are peddled to discredit criticism of the current economic crisis and political repression in the Philippines. These are no different from the Palace’s and the military’s singling out of critics or advocates from other sectors as “terrorists” and targets for harassment or worse. The Presidential Communications Operations Office, through Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, promotes the spread of dangerous disinformation. For, for instance, it interviewed supposed lumad leaders who want the peace talks scrapped and condemn alleged CPP-NPA killings of “legitimate” leaders—claims that are strongly contested by people’s organizations on the ground.

These cases of red baiting and surveillance are a dangerous throwback to the repression and proliferation of lies, rife during the Marcos dictatorship. Let us not not wait for these to escalate into full-blown harassment of artists and cultural workers or for such black propaganda to become normalized. We call upon our colleagues in the film industry to speak up against the incident and the wider phenomenon of McCarthyist red-baiting of dissent.

Stop the attacks on artists and cultural workers.
Stop the attacks on lumad and indigenous peoples communities.
Stop the attacks on the Filipino people.

Nato on trolls: ‘Let us not allow them to win’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. is pushing back hard against online bashers he believes are “Duterte-Marcos trolls,” adding he has already consulted lawyers for appropriate legal action.

“I decry the orchestrated online slander campaign instigated by Duterte-Marcos trolls against me and the broad United People’s SONA,” Reyes told Kodao.

Reyes cited lies and a death threat posted online by bashers who also accused him of profiting from protest actions he helped organize.

He said the trolls altered photos of the huge SONA rally against President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned Charter change to make it appear as a pro-Duterte rally.

“Then, several accounts posted false and slanderous accounts about me concerning alleged purchases that I never made,” he said.

The post’s originator, a certain Gabriel Ilano, claimed he was asked by Reyes to “mark up” the declared price of a projector machine.

Ilano’s Facebook account since been deactivated after Reyes reposted Ilano’s accusation on his own account.

“However, [Ilano’s] false claims continue to make the rounds of Duterte sites. As a result I have received an online death threat from one Carl Espiritu,” Reyes said.

“Nagmamalinis kang animal ka! Kawatan ka pa rin palang hinayupak ka! Dapat bala ibaon sa ulo mo!” Espiritu wrote. (You want people to believe you are upright when you are corrupt yourself. You deserve a bullet to the head!)

Espiritu’s wife has called Reyes to apologize and explain that her husband is suffering from depression.

“I have already informed my lawyers and they are studying the appropriate legal action against Ilano, Espiritu and others who are spreading false claims,” Reyes said.

The leader said that two others have already contacted him to apologize, including a 23-year old woman who falsely claimed she was Reyes’s high school classmate who dropped out of school as he was already earning from organizing rallies.

Reyes graduated from Lourdes School of Quezon City and was his class’s Citizen’s Army Training Corps Commander and student publication editor in his senior year. He went on to attend the University of the Philippines in Diliman where he was also a student leader.

Earlier this year, Reyes’ 10-year old son was also accused by bashers of crashing a sports car into an electrical post.

“The end goal of the trolls is to stop critical discussion by hijacking the discourse. Let us not allow them to win,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Group assails FB for taking down accounts critical of Duterte

An arts and media group has slammed social media platform Facebook for taking down accounts of Duterte critics Mae “Juana Change” Paner and the popular Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB) creator Jover Laurio.

The Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), itself critical of attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression under the Rodrigo Duterte government, today assailed Facebook for the move against Paner and Laurio, two well-known critics of President Duterte.

“We demand that Facebook immediately and unconditionally restore Mae’s account,” veteran journalist and LODI convenor Inday Espina Varona said.

Mae’s takedown followed a similar action last week against Jover, LODI in a statement said.

It took two days of “bombardment” by Laurio and many supporters to restore her account.

“We call on Facebook to stop being complicit in the silencing of President Duterte’s critics,” Varona said.

She noted that Mae’s posts in the last few days have been largely on #BabaeAko , a campaign against President Rodrigo Duterte’s misogyny.

“This is not the first time Facebook has taken down accounts of activists and politically-involved Filipinos, and Facebook Pages maintained by activist organizations and campaigns. Facebook has also been censoring content, as we saw in the taking down of posts critical of the Marcoses,” Varona said.

“Facebook recently announced that it would take steps to combat the proliferation of Fake News. But what has been more pronounced, as in the case of Mae and the others, is that it is wittingly or unwittingly helping silence voices exposing and fighting Fake News,” she added.

Facebook’s ‘dangerous’ Real Name policy

Another LODI convenor, newspaper columnist Tonyo Cruz, in the statement said that the implementation of Facebook’s Real Name policy is apparently doing more harm than good especially in the Philippines.

“Many activists and campaigners in other countries ruled by dictatorships have long asked Facebook not to deny citizens the right to use pseudonyms which prove important in protecting dissenters,” said Cruz.

“I didn’t expect that we’d need it in 2018, but there sure are legitimate reasons for many Filipinos to use pseudonyms amid Duterte’s rising tyranny,” Cruz added.

Cruz said the application of the Real Name policy on Paner could not have been a result of due diligence or even the most basic investigations.

“A simple Google search about Mae Paner would lead Facebook officers and staff to plenty of stories, images and videos about her, including links to her Facebook account,” Cruz said.

Cruz added that Facebook should also check reports that the takedowns of the accounts of Mae and Laurio are a result of “mass reporting” by Duterte supporters.

“If this is true, Facebook should take steps against those who game its reporting system. There are lots of accounts that spread Fake News and hate speech that should be taken down. Accounts of activists should be spared and protected,” Cruz said.

Paner is among LODI’s co-founders and co-convenors. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)