Duterte calls out Facebook; House to conduct probe
President Duterte scored Facebook over its decision to take down accounts manned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police
AFP/File
Duterte calls out Facebook; House to conduct probe
Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte does not intend to ban Facebook, but he called out the social media giant for supposed censorship of advocacies supportive of the government, Malacañang said yesterday.

Duterte scored Facebook over its decision to take down accounts manned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

“If you cannot help me protect the government’s interests, then let us talk,” Duterte said in a televised address on Monday night. “If you are promoting the cause of the rebellion, which was already here before you came, and thousands of my soldiers and civilians dying, then if you cannot reconcile the idea of what your purpose is or was, then we have to talk.”

Duterte, whose victory in the 2016 presidential race was partly due to social media, assailed Facebook for removing pro-government pages, including those that criticized communist rebels.

Some of the pages were linked to the military, but security officials have clarified that these are not official social media accounts.

“You cannot lay down a policy for my government. I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of the government,” Duterte said.

He explained that the war against rebellion and crimes, including illegal drugs, has reached social media platforms and the government has to keep up with them.

“We allow you to operate here, hoping that you could help us,” he said. “Now, if you cannot advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in the country?”

Duterte pointed out that it is his job to protect the interests of the government.

“Is there life after Facebook? I don’t know,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said both Facebook and the public stand to lose if the social network stops its operation in the Philippines.

“I don’t think so because the President said they need to talk. It would be disadvantageous to both Facebook and the Philippines. We are number one in the whole world in terms of Facebook users. It would be a huge loss for Facebook but at the same time, since we are number one, many Filipinos using Facebook would also be affected,” Roque said at a press briefing.

Roque said while the pages supportive of the government were banned due to “inauthentic behavior” and not due to their content, the removal of the content still translates to censorship.

“We believe in freedom of speech. They may use as justification inauthentic behavior but the effect is censorship because the ideas contained in the pages were erased,” the Palace spokesman said.

Roque said the President was sensitive about the removal of the Hands Off our Children page, which lambasts the alleged recruitment of child combatants by communists.

House to probe Facebook

The House of Representatives is set to investigate Facebook over what Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano branded as “partisan” action by the social networking sites on accounts linked to the AFP and PNP.

“We will initiate a probe in aid of legislation to determine if the reported actions of Facebook are detrimental to the constitutional freedom of expression guaranteed to all Filipinos, regardless of political color, rich or poor, left or right,” Cayetano said in a Facebook post.

He believed that Facebook is essential to the country’s democracy as it gives ordinary Filipinos “a platform to communicate and allows the government to effectively disseminate information that let citizens directly participate in governance.”

But Cayetano cited reports that Facebook took down accounts linked to the AFP and PNP while it allowed accounts that called for violent overthrow of the Duterte administration.

Earlier, the AFP and PNP said they had no hand in social media accounts removed by Facebook for spreading disinformation.

The AFP thanked the President for calling the attention of Facebook over its decision to remove advocacy pages that are supportive of the government’s campaign against communist rebels.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. opposed regulating Facebook and other social media platforms. — Edu Punay, Michael Punongbayan, Pia Lee-Brago

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