PNP disavows accounts Facebook took down for 'coordinated inauthentic behavior'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP disavows accounts Facebook took down for 'coordinated inauthentic behavior'
Detail of a social media card released by Police Regional Office-13 that has since been deleted.

MANILA, Philippines — Allegations by social media giant Facebook linking the national police to inauthentic accounts posting pro-government content branding administration critics as communist rebels are an "unofficial and unauthorized" opinion that the police "disown," the agency said Wednesday. 

This comes after social networking site Facebook announced that it had taken down a network of accounts, pages and groups from its platform for violating its rules on coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity. 

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police," Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a post announcing the takedowns.

"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," he added. 

READ: Facebook takes down Chinese, Philippine networks due to 'coordinated inauthentic behavior'

"We recognize social media as an effective tool that technology can offer, especially at this period of health emergency, to establish pro-active information and awareness activities as well as to build harmonious relationship with the community," the PNP said in a statement to Philstar.com.

"As far as we are concerned, official Facebook pages of the PNP and those of our lower units remain compliant with standards and continue to serve its purpose along these objectives," the statement also read. 

"Thus, all comments and opinions of individual personnel, associations and sectoral groups on matters that are not related to the organization's activities are hereby disowned by the PNP as unofficial and unauthorized. Nonetheless, we respect the administrative action taken by Facebook on what they perceive to be violations of its terms of use," the agency also said. 

Facebook page for quarantine-related complaints

Earlier in September, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, the quarantine enforcement arm of the government's coronavirus task force which includes the PNP, announced that it had created a Facebook channel to "facilitate" complaints from users to monitor social media for quarantine violations. It added that any reports forwarded to it could be used as evidence "to warn, to fine and to summon the people concerned."

READ: Task force creates Facebook page for complaints on quarantine | Quarantine violations reported to task force on Facebook result in 16 arrests

One such report has even led to the arrests of 16 people found drinking together on the streets at a birthday mañanita, which are prohibited under the quarantine protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. 

Reports of crowding and subsequent quarantine violations at the government-sponsored opening Manila Bay earlier this weekend, though, did not receive the same treatment. 

'Do not trigger cyber-bullying' 

While the Philippine National Police is careful to evade criticisms of its social media behavior, its content similar to that described by Facebook is well-documented and reported. 

PNP Memorandum Circular 2020-034 released in March urge the agency's social media handlers to "ensure that all posts are not libelous, do not trigger cyber-bullying, and do not violate the Data Privacy Act and Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines."

READ: Dura 'Likes': PNP social media rules and what police actually post

Over the coronavirus pandemic, though, the PNP has been accused of using its official channels to vilify and red-tag critics of the Duterte administration. 

Philstar.com in an earlier story took a look at the PNP's social media content published throughout the quarantine and found that there were largely not adherent to its social media rules, including those of the country. 

Some of the posts are still available on their respective pages as of this post, and a cursory glance at a few PNP pages shows that similar posts are still being published to this day.

At the time, PNP chief Archie Gamboa, who has since retired, trumpeted the same narrative that the PNP employed on Wednesday: that the agency did nothing wrong.

In June, he was quoted as saying: “There is an enhanced protocol on social media which should be observed by the members of PNP. They can be charged administratively and if the evidence would warrant, even criminal cases."

Despite the chief's warning, though, the slew of content continued. To this day, no criminal cases have been charged over social media violations in the agency. 

"The Philippine National Police will continue to adhere to our institutional policy that promotes observance of cyber etiquette and proper decorum in all public engagements including social media platforms, chatgroups and private sites," the PNP said Wednesday afternoon.

with reports from James Relativo and Bella Perez-Rubio 

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