Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said they have banned Philippine-based digital marketing group Twinmark Media Enterprises and its subsidiaries for repeated violations of its policies, including sharing spammy content and the use of fake accounts.
300 Facebook, Instagram accounts taken down for violations
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Over 300 Facebook and Instagram accounts in the Philippines, including some that have millions of followers, were taken down by the social media company yesterday over violations of its community standards.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said they have banned Philippine-based digital marketing group Twinmark Media Enterprises and its subsidiaries for repeated violations of its policies, including sharing spammy content and the use of fake accounts.

In a video conference with Filipino journalists, Gleicher said the digital marketing group was also discovered to have misled people into visiting ad farms and sold access to its Facebook Pages to artificially increase distribution and generate profit. 

He said the takedown involved 220 Facebook pages, 73 Facebook accounts and 29 Instagram accounts followed by a total of 43 million unique users.

Among those taken down were pages such as the Filipino Channel Online with 10.4 million followers, Gorgeous Me with 5.7 million, Unhappy with 4.9 million and Text Message with 4.4 million.

Twinmark was also previously reported to have operated the page Trending News Portal, later rebranded as TNP Media, which earlier drew criticisms for sharing false or misleading content.

TNP Media, which has 4.3 million followers, was also among those taken down yesterday. 

“This specific investigation began after we learned that Twinmark was selling (administrative) rights to Facebook pages it had created, in order to increase distribution and generate profit, which violates our spam policy,” said Gleicher.

“This prompted our teams to take a deeper look at a broader group of pages and accounts associated with these users, ultimately uncovering a large network of pages and accounts that were engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior, the use of fake accounts, leading people to ad farms and selling access to Facebook pages,” he added.

Facebook released examples of posts that violated its standards, including those that were shared in coordination among the pages that were part of the network in order to mislead the audience.

Gleicher said they have informed the Philippine government, particularly the Department of Information and Communications Technology, of the takedown.

“We are not going to recommend or suggest action. Determining other steps that would be taken is something that the government would do,” he said when asked if they will pursue prosecution of those behind the network.

“We’re really focused on removing violating content on our platform,” he added.

Bad behavior

Gleicher said the decision to take down the pages and ban the digital marketing group was based on the behavior of these actors rather than on the type of content they were posting.

Asked if the removed pages were politically-motivated, he said their assessment looked into violations and not necessarily the motives.

“We don’t necessarily understand what is on the heads of the people that are engaging. Obviously when you have an organization like Twinmark Media that is a commercial organization, that is making money out of this, it is clear that there is financial motive involved,” he said.

“We don’t analyze behind that to determine a further motive here, what we’re focused on is the behavior… It does not matter who the organization is, whether they are private or government, one hundred or four, it doesn’t matter why they are doing it, what matters is the behavior they engage in to deceive people on the platform,” he added.

The takedown of the pages operated by Twinmark follows a similar action by the company against a spam network discovered to have been making money by taking advantage of Filipino users last year.

A total of 95 pages and 39 accounts with political and entertainment content were removed from the social media platform last October “for encouraging people to visit low quality websites that contain little substantive content and are full of disruptive ads.”

Gleicher said the network taken down last year was not directly related to their investigation of Twinmark, noting that they started investigating the latter in November.

“We are continuously working to uncover this kind of abuse, and we know that the people behind it – whether economically or politically motivated – will continue to evolve their tactics.,” he said during Friday’s briefing.

“(This) announcement is just one of the many steps we have taken to prevent bad actors from abusing our platform. We will continue to invest heavily in safety and security in order to ensure that people can continue to trust the connections they make on Facebook,” he added.

FACEBOOK FAKE ACCOUNTS INSTAGRAM TWINMARK MEDIA ENTERPRISES
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