MANILA, Philippines — Executives of social networking website Facebook are set to meet with ranking members of the interior department next week, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday.
Speaking at a webinar for information officers of the DILG, Año said that he expects the two sides to come up with solutions "on how social media can help the government fight fake news and disinformation."
The DILG chief again pointed out that the pages were taken down "without prior consultation and due notice," though Facebook reserves the right to take down accounts it deems necessary in its User Agreement.
Section 4.2 of the social networking platform's terms of service, for instance, reads: "If we determine that you have clearly, seriously or repeatedly breached our Terms or Policies, including in particular our Community Standards, we may suspend or permanently disable access to your account. We may also suspend or disable your account if you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights or where we are required to do so for legal reasons."
“Factual information can empower people to partake in nation-building such as government’s efforts to control COVID-19,” said Año.
"[C]riminals and extremist groups have taken advantage of the pandemic to sabotage the delivery of government services," he also said.
This comes after the social networking giant earlier took down what it called networks of fake accounts engaged in "coordinated and inauthentic behavior" and that it said were linked to the Philippine military and police.
"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.
In response, President Rodrigo Duterte at the time went on to accuse the social networking platform of encouraging communists, a label his administration has comfortably slapped on its critics.
The DILG and red-tagging
Support for and membership in an activist group does not mean support for or membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines or the New People's Army but the government has been pushing this narrative as early as 2017, when President Rodrigo Duterte accused transport group Piston, human rights group Karapatan and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno of committing rebellion.
Año is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government's anti-communist task force which has been the source of disinformation against government critics, including journalists and activists, over the coronavirus pandemic, having been caught in a lie on more than one occasion.
The interior chief himself has said that enforcers caught red-tagging won't be tolerated, though he continues to defend the pages taken down by Facebook.
The national police, an attached bureau under the DILG, has also used its official channels to target and publicly red-tag critical groups and figures, contrary to its own social media rules and protocols. Despite warnings from police leadership, police pages continue to post similar content.
Just on Thursday, Philip Jamilla, public information researcher of rights monitor Karapatan was red-tagged in a graphic posted by an account called @pcrcabuyaocps that is followed by the official Philippine National Police Twitter account. In the graphic, which reads: "No to CPP-NPA-NDF. Hands off our children!"
"We're going to rally because we have P750 from the CPP-NPA," the graphic reads, though it is unclear to whom the quote is attributed.