Palace chides Facebook over account snafu

Social media giant Facebook should practice “prudence” following a disclosure it removed accounts linked to the military and police due to policy violations, Malacañang said Wednesday.

“We hope the social media giant would exercise prudence in all its actions to remove any doubt of bias given its power, influence and reach,” said a statement posted on the official page of the Office of the presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

The statement said any action by the social media platform was based on its “sound judgment and discretion.” The office was also one with Facebook “in advocating the truth and dismissing disinformation.”

Facebook on Wednesday removed pages, accounts and profiles from two networks due to coordinated inauthentic behavior. The players behind one of the networks, it said, had links to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

In a statement, the AFP said all its official accounts remained up and running, and that it was upholding the “truth” in its social media pages.

The PNP, meanwhile, said its official accounts complied with standards, but it disowned “unofficial” and unauthorized actions by its personnel.

Facebook said it also derailed a network of fake accounts out of China that had recently taken aim at the US presidential race.

The takedown came as part of the social network’s fight against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and marked the first time Facebook had seen such a campaign based in China targeting US politics, according to head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.

Facebook did not connect the campaign to the Chinese government, saying its investigation found links to individuals in the Fujian province of China.

In the takedown, Facebook removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, nine Groups and six Instagram accounts for violating its policy against foreign interference in deceptive schemes.

The campaign out of China focused primarily on the Philippines and Southeast Asia more broadly, and just a bit on the US, according to Gleicher.

Posts particularly commented about naval activity in the South China Sea, including US Navy ships, Facebook said.

The account holders would have had to use techniques to circumvent China’s “Great Firewall,” which bans the US social network.

Gleicher said the people running the pages posed as locals in the places they targeted, and tried to hide their locations using virtual private network software.

The network posted in Southeast Asia about Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and in support of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Facebook said.

The network had evidently been active since at least 2018, only recently starting to post content both for and against US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, according to Gleicher.

“The operation had been running a while aimed at Southeast Asia; its aim at the US seemed nascent and ineffective,” Gleicher said during a briefing with journalists.

“These actors had hardly posted anything; it looked like audience building.”

About 133,000 people followed one or more of the Facebook pages, and around 61,000 people had joined one or more of its online Groups, according to the California-based social network.

The campaign had only spent about $60 on ads on Facebook, paid for in Chinese yuan, Gleicher said.

Meanwhile, the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives on Wednesday called on Facebook to make public the names of the fake Facebook accounts, particularly those supposedly linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police that terrorist-tag persons and organizations from the opposition and critics of the Duterte administration.

“We have aired our complaints against numerous troll accounts before and we are glad that some have been taken down but more remains. So it is imperative that they may be made public,” Bayan Muna Rep. and Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

“The people also need to know these specific accounts that are spreading fake news and disinformation because taxpayers’ money may have been used to fund these accounts. The ones using these accounts and the ones funding them should be held responsible.”

Topics: Facebook , policy violations , Harry Roque , Armed Forces of the Philippines
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