Año cries foul over busted Facebook accounts, slams company 'bias'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Año cries foul over busted Facebook accounts, slams company 'bias'
In this Feb. 18, 2019 photo, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año addresses questions from the press.
Philstar.com / Erwin Cagadas Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday called into question what he said was Facebook's biases, pointing out that the "private" pro-government pages were taken down while pages critical of the administration remain active. 

This comes as the latest development after social networking site Facebook announced that it busted a network of accounts exhibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior” which it linked to the Philippine police and military, both of whom have since rejected the allegations. 

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the Department of Interior and Local Government urged Facebook officials to hold talks with government counterparts and restore the Facebook pages in question, pointing out that the pages were taken down "without prior consultation nor were the administrators of these accounts afforded due process."

"The popular social media platform, which counts the Philippines as one of its biggest markets in the world, has not been transparent in the conduct of its investigation on the questioned Philippine accounts, even if it maintains a large presence in the Philippines," Año's statement reads. 

"We are also concerned with Facebook’s sense of fairness. For example, while it has actively deleted alleged fake pages linked to the military and police, it has surprisingly failed to root out the bots, or automated accounts, that are being maintained by political and armed groups that are actively seeking to overthrow duly constituted authority in the country. This raises a valid question about Facebook’s commitment to effectively police its own platform and the bias of their advisors," he also said. 

In response to the busted accounts, Duterte addressed the social media giant at a televised address, saying: "Facebook, listen to me. We allow you to operate here hoping that you could help us also. Now if the government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?" 

The chief executive at the time went on to accuse the social networking platform of encouraging communists, a label his administration has comfortably slapped on its critics. 

'Coordinated networks feign illusion of public perception'

Año, a former military general, added that while Facebook "has taken down alleged pro-government pages, it has allowed unfettered access to hate speech spreaders and purveyors of fake news from Communist Terrorist Groups, for example, who are actively working to bring down our democratic way of life."

He did not address the allegations of coordinated and irregular behavior. 

Over the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine National Police has consistently posted content vilifying and red-tagging activists, government critics and even registered party-list lawmakers on its official social media accounts, none of which has been acknowledged by police leadership. 

The PNP is an attached bureau under the DILG. 

Speaking in an interview over social media news portal "Now You Know," University of the Philippines Diliman journalism professor Diosa Labiste pointed out that Facebook's position as a social networking platform came with a commitment to authenticity that discouraged any form of deception. 

"These accounts work on the behalf of certain actors like the government for example, and they work to mislead people... Facebook doesn't want to censor anyone on the basis of their beliefs, but these were taken down [due to their] systematic and massive operations," she said in Filipino.

"You can see that there is an intention to commit harm." 

Labiste added that with the looming 2022 elections, disinformation operations could be ramped up to sway results if left unchecked. 

On the same program, Red Tani, advocacy and communications director of nonprofit EngageMedia, also said that the free services of Facebook could put at risk the right to privacy and sovereignty in the time of elections. 

"Intent or malice isn't looked at by Facebook. What they look at is, is this content posted by real people or bots? Is the behavior coordinated? What results from this that we're led to believe that many people share an opinion, even though it's just small and coordinated network. And this is against the policy of Facebook," he said in Filipino. 

"It's been proven that fake accounts can influence elections... the effects are scary, and the Philippines' case is not isolated. What the government should be doing is helping Facebook by committing to remove this type of activity, because this can be damaging to health and democracy and many other facets," he also said. 

In late 2019, communications professors from De La Salle University cast fear over the growth of disinformation operations in the digital and creative industries in the Philippines, which they said was the world's "patient zero" in digital disinformation. 





As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 16, 2020 - 12:33pm

Follow this thread for updates on social media attacks, trolling, and other threats

December 16, 2020 - 12:33pm

Australia's consumer watchdog launched legal action against Facebook on Wednesday, alleging the social media giant "misled" thousands of Australians by collecting user data from a free VPN service advertised as private.

The platform could face a fine if found guilty of deceiving users, as Australia takes an increasingly assertive stance towards powerful US tech titans.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Facebook and two of its subsidiaries — Facebook Israel and Onavo Inc — of misleading people who downloaded its virtual private network (VPN) app Onavo Protect, by collecting and using their "very detailed and valuable personal activity data".

Records of which apps they accessed and the amount of time they spent using them were among the data allegedly used to support Facebook's market research. — AFP

December 3, 2020 - 3:23pm

Google has been given two weeks to respond to a US labor board complaint accusing the internet giant of using surveillance, interrogation and other tactics to spy on activist employees.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed late Wednesday stemmed from the dismissal a year ago of a quartet of employees dubbed the "Thanksgiving Four."

The workers sought a federal investigation into their dismissal, alleging they were sacked in retaliation for their labor organizing efforts, while Google maintained that the employees had violated data security policies. — AFP

November 10, 2020 - 1:54pm

Following the lead of Twitter and YouTube, Facebook on Monday removed several pages linked to former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, whose content pushed unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

According to the human rights group Avaaz, the social media giant took down seven pages directly linked to Bannon that had 2.45 million followers and that the group flagged to Facebook content monitors on Friday.

"Our team had identified some of these pages earlier this year for repeatedly sharing misinformation on false 'voter fraud' claims potentially reaching 10 million views in the last week alone," an Avaaz spokesman said.

"We've removed several clusters of activity for using inauthentic behavior tactics to artificially boost how many people saw their content,” a Facebook spokesperson said. — AFP

October 14, 2020 - 12:47pm

Twitter says it had suspended several fake accounts purporting to be African Americans who support President Donald Trump and which had succeeded in garnering several thousand followers in just a few days.

"Our teams are working diligently to investigate this activity and will take action in line with the Twitter rules if Tweets are found to be in violation," says a spokesman for the San Francisco-based company.

Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University who specializes in disinformation on social media, published some examples of the fake accounts on Twitter, accusing them of using "digital black face." — AFP

October 8, 2020 - 12:05pm

Facebook is allowing climate misinformation ads to proliferate despite claiming it is committed to rooting out the problem, a new report by a think tank says Thursday.

InfluenceMap used the platform's own data to identify 51 ads denying the link between human activity and climate change that were viewed a total of eight million times over the first half of 2020.

This was despite the fact that Facebook bans false ads, and stated as recently as September that it is "committed to tackling climate change through our global operations."

Out of the 51 ads identified, only one was removed by the social media giant while the rest were allowed to run for the entirety of their scheduled campaign. — AFP

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