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DOJ cybercrime office to investigate reports of clone Facebook accounts
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DOJ cybercrime office to investigate reports of clone Facebook accounts

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - June 7, 2020 - 4:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid a flurry of reports of dummy accounts on Facebook, the justice department's Office of Cybercrime has been directed to coordinate with the cybercrime units of both the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to investigate. 

UP Tug-ani, UP Cebu's official student publication, first reported duplicate accounts of the activists arrested at the peaceful protest held at the university's campus, though reports of similar have soon included non-student activists in Manila. 

In a text message to reporters Sunday afternoon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said: "This gives me cause for worry." 

READ: What to do if you or a friend has been 'cloned' on Facebook

"We don't need false information at a time when we're dealing with a serious public health crisis. I will immediately direct the DOJ Office of Cybercrime to coordinate with the NBI and PNP cybercrime units to promptly investigate the apparent proliferation of fake or dummy accounts on Facebook," Guevarra said. 

At least two reporters of Philstar.com have found duplicate accounts of themselves as well. 

Facebook, the National Privacy Commission and the Philippine National Police have not responded to request for comment as of this writing. 

'Targeted attacks to sow fear'

In separate statements, militant groups cast fear that the proliferating accounts were a form of harassment targeted at dissenters critical of the anti-terrorism bill.

Anakpawis leader Ariel Casilao said in a statement: "We do not want to be too alarmed but Facebook and social media account cloning is a form of cyber attack or cyber harassment."

The proposed anti-terrorism bill has drawn widespread criticism from lawyers, activists, the academe and business groups who have called for its immediate junking, saying its "unconstitutional" provisions are prone to abuse and could criminalize dissent.

"Such duplicate accounts could post under the name of a certain individual like what troll farms are doing when they are using legitimate or cloned Facebook accounts to post spam messages and comments, mostly hateful and abusive comments," he said. 

"We are aware that there are desperate attempts to take away even these social media platforms and to silence all forms of expression—either online or offline," he added. 

RELATED: 'Critical but not seditious,' journalist, artists say of papers in halted Bulacan relief drive

"Only well-oiled machinery with so much resources like the (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and the AFP Cyber group are capable of carrying out such malicious actions directed at ordinary citizens, activists, journalists and a wide range of Facebook users and netizens," said Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

He did not provide proof of the assertion, although the NTF-ELCAC itself, which is an attached agency under the Office of the President, has been caught on more than one occasion peddling disinformation against journalists and activists critical of the administration.  

Both the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University have also released statements on the matter. 

"This is one of the desperate efforts of the Duterte administration to silence all forms of expression -- either online or offline. While we are still far from flattening the curve, it is alarming and outraging to see the government is investing its efforts and resources in intimidation of dissenters," Fernando Hicap, chairman of fishers federation Pamalakaya, added. 

"This is plain and simple cyber-harassment. It will not hinder us from exhausting all possible means to express, especially against Duterte's anti-terrorism bill that will violate our democratic and civil liberties," he added. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

ANAKPAWIS DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FACEBOOK JUSTICE SECRETARY MENARDO GUEVARRA PAMALAKAYA
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