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Facebook: Spammers made money from Philippines polls

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Facebook: Spammers made money from Philippines polls
This file photo shows logos of social networking site Facebook.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Technology company Meta said it has removed thousands of Facebook and Instagram accounts that used prohibited “tactics” to make money from content related to the recent elections in the Philippines.

David Agranovich, Meta’s director for threat disruption, said their investigative teams took down about 10,000 accounts ahead of the Philippine elections for engaging in inauthentic behavior (IB).

Meta defines IB as an effort to mislead people or Facebook about the popularity of content, the purpose of a community or the identity of the people behind it.

These were primarily centered on amplifying or increasing the distribution of content, usually for financial gain and not for political purposes.

In the case of the accounts taken down in the Philippines, Meta said users “used IB tactics to inflate the distribution of content that included election-related posts, including some that used politics as a spam lure at the time when people were interested in following these topics.”

Agranovich said those involved used popular content – such as those related to politics – to drive audience to websites selling merchandise or those that have too many advertisements.

Meta said they were able to automate the detection of these IB patterns to complement manual investigations, resulting in the identification of hundreds of other clusters in the Philippines.

It said actions were taken against over another 15,000 accounts using automated detection.

Earlier this year, Meta said it has taken down hundreds of accounts for engaging in various malicious activities ahead of the elections.

It included “several clusters of activity” that switched focus of their pages and groups to the elections to increase their following, as well as those that focus on fake engagement to drive people to particular pages or off-platform websites.

“In one case, a social media management agency used a network of over 700 accounts to post and share both political and entertainment content. In other cases, we found and removed inauthentic engagement activity run by the same people in support of multiple candidates in the same election at once,” read Meta’s April blog post.

But unlike in the past, Agranovich said Meta did not monitor coordinated IB cases that specifically targeted the recent elections.

Hate speech

From Jan. 9 to May 16, Meta said it also removed over five million pieces of content that violated its violence and incitement policies on Facebook and Instagram in the Philippines.

Also taken down were more than 670,000 posts due to hate speech and 550,000 due to bullying and harassment.

Meta did not disclose details of the posts that were taken down, but said it used artificial intelligence technology trained in Filipino to proactively detect and remove content that violate its policies.

“In addition, we reduce the distribution of content that our technology identifies as likely to be violating those policies, to prevent it from spreading quickly,” added Meta.

The company said it also rejected about 68,000 ad submissions during the campaign period for failing to complete the authorization process or not attaching the required disclaimer.

Meta earlier required advertisers in the Philippines to complete its ad authorizations process and include “paid for by” disclaimers on ads about elections, politics and certain categories of social issues.

Meanwhile, IT security firm Kaspersky said cyber hackers and fraudsters have already penetrated popular online gaming platform Roblox, which is being used as an educational tool during the pandemic.

“Although Roblox has a system of content moderation, you should not rely on it completely. It can be especially dangerous for school children, who due to their lack of experience may not be aware of many cybersecurity rules,” Andrey Sidenko, cybersecurity expert at Kaspersky, said.

“Roblox is an online gaming platform that allows users to create their own game simulations and virtual locations, where they can play in different locations themselves or invite other users,” Sidenko said. – Rainier Allan Ronda

DAVID AGRANOVICH

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