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DOF hires 'fake' Facebook account operator
In a notice of award dated June 10, the DOF announced it granted a contract worth P909,122 to public relations strategist Nicanor Gabunada Jr.
AFP/File

DOF hires 'fake' Facebook account operator

Elijah Felice Rosales (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) has hired the services of a communications strategist whose social media pages were taken down by Facebook for conducting manipulative activities online.

In a notice of award dated June 10, the DOF announced it granted a contract worth P909,122 to public relations strategist Nicanor Gabunada Jr.

The contract will run from June 16 to Dec. 15, and will allow Gabunada to serve as the DOF’s communications strategy consultant.

The position entails coming up with research information that can improve the DOF’s approach in explaining fiscal policies to the public.

Likewise, Gabunada is required to develop a multimedia communications plan that the DOF can use for its campaigns and events, as well as a platform for engagement.

Gabunada will also produce a monthly evaluation of the performance and public response on the multimedia releases sent out by the DOF.

He will coordinate with the agency in expanding its media mileage by producing materials for TV, radio, print and digital channels.

In 2019, Gabunada was singled out by Facebook for allegedly operating around 200 Facebook pages, accounts and groups that are linked to spreading disinformation online.

As a consequence, FB shut down these pages for violating its community standards.

Facebook said Gabunada’s pages, accounts and groups were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which means most of their engagements came from fake profiles or bot operations.

Based on Facebook’s investigation, Gabunada and his team spent at least $59,000, or close to P3 million, in running the manipulative pages.

Facebook also disclosed that posts made by the dummy accounts favored administration candidates and attack their counterparts in the opposition ahead of the midterm elections.

Gabunada spearheaded the social media campaign that helped President Duterte win the 2016 presidential elections. A marketing executive from Davao, Gabunada used to head the research and business analysis team of TV network ABS-CBN, which was shut down under the Duterte administration.

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