Malacañang shrugs off reports that Facebook helped Duterte's campaign

Malacañang shrugs off reports that Facebook helped Duterte's campaign

President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a photo with Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque while on board the Philippine Airlines chartered flight prior to their departure for Vietnam on Nov. 8, 2017. Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday shrugged off media reports that revealed Facebook's hand in raising "authoritarian" powers, such as President Rodrigo Duterte, to seats of global leadership.

"Well the technology exists and would have been foolhardy for any political candidate not to tap Facebook as a campaign tool," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

"All candidates did so, unfortunately for his detractors, President Duterte appeared to have been the best candidate who utilized Facebook the most," Roque added.

READ: Facebook under fire for aiding Duterte's campaign

Social media giant Facebook is currently in hot waters in the United States after media reports reveal that the social networking site sent out teams to train politicians around the globe to use the platform as a campaign tool.

Facebook claims that it is a "tool for democracy." However, the reports show that it supposedly lent aid to electoral campaigns and propaganda of some populists global leaders, including Duterte.

Bloomberg, in a December 21 report, revealed that Facebook sent a team led by Katie Harbath to Argentina in 2015. Her team trained "politicians and leaders how to set up a campaign page and get it authenticated with a blue verification check mark, how to best use video to engage viewers and how to target ads to critical voting blocs."

Spread of fake news

According to the reports, Duterte's team received training in January 2016 and "went into overdrive" shortly after. MSNBC, in its December 27 report, said that Duterte's allies started pushing fake news and fake accounts.

However, Roque stressed that the internet is "the manifestation of the free marketplace of ideas and it should be made to flourish, as freedom of expression is responsible for freedom of thought and public opinion, which we know will fiscalize governments."

The allegation of gaming Facebook's algorithms with false information and pretend users hounded the Duterte campaign and eventually, the administration, as the loudest voices on social media were eventually given offered seats in national government.

A leading figure in Duterte's social media campaign was adult performer Mocha Uson, now an assistant secretary for the presidential communications group. Uson constantly defended and promoted Duterte to her millions of followers on Facebook and has positioned herself as an alternative source of information to the news media.

Uson, however, has been subjected to criticism for peddling fake news on her Facebook page that has more than 5 million likes.

VERA files, for its yearend report, also observed that most of the false claims in 2017 were peddled by Duterte himself.

The information was also spread by his known allies such as Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and former Presidential Spokesperson and now Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Presidential Communications Office likewise echoed the fake claims.

Duterte was similarly a main benefactor of fake content being spread on the massively popular online platform.

The Philippines is a huge market for Facebook with 33 million users, many of whom besides using the platform for hours daily are also registered voters. It is not clear how many of those are fake accounts built to defend the president and attack his critics.

The social networking giant's revenues are mainly from digital advertising. Its business model allows individuals, businesses, organizations and politicians to target specific user profiles by the thousands or millions for ads.

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