CHR, Facebook asked to probe red-tagging online, spread of dummy accounts
MANILA, Philippines – A group has asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Facebook to investigate alleged incidents of red-tagging on social media, as well as the recent surge of dummy accounts of students, journalists, and other persons.
Rights organization Karapatan said on Tuesday that they have formally sent a letter to both CHR and Facebook’s Philippine office, as they believe that the issues encountered by several users were not a glitch.
Previously, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime Division chief Victor Lorenzo speculated that the proliferation of fake accounts may be just a glitch because Facebook had placed a safeguard to prevent the creation multiple accounts in a short span of time.
“Glitches do not send messages filled with death and rape threats, vilification, and red-tagging — and many of those who received them have voiced their opposition online on the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
“Hundreds more are reporting duplicate dummy accounts, and with millions of Filipinos using Facebook as part of their daily lives, we are urgently concerned these accounts are part of a massive and orchestrated campaign to further weaponize the platform against activists, human rights defenders, and even ordinary individuals airing dissent,” she added.
Palabay was referring to supposed messages from dummy accounts sent to the original users, warning them about their political stands especially in relation to the controversial Anti-Terror Bill.
She also cited various attempts to link activists, including those from Karapatan itself, to the communist armed movement. Some of the posts, Palabay said, came from government agencies like the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“State security officials, through numerous Facebook accounts of Philippine government agencies such as the [NTF-ELCAC] and that of military and police units and offices, have ramped up the use of the online platform in conducting disinformation, ‘red-tagging’ and villification campaigns against human rights defenders and people’s organizations,” she said in the letter to CHR chair Chito Gaston and Facebook Policy Head Clare Amador.
Over the weekend, students including those from the University of the Philippines discovered duplicate but empty Facebook profiles of them, with the dummies’ universal resource locator (URL) address bearing a format of the user’s name and surname separated by a dot, and a series of numbers.
Then on Saturday and Sunday, several local journalists from various news outlets discovered that their profiles were also duplicated into varying degrees: some profiles were empty while some contained photos that were not theirs.
The affected Facebook users expressed fears that that it may be used to implicate them by posting subversive and allegedly terroristic content, in the wake of the Anti-Terrorism Bill’s impending enactment into law. Activists also noted that most of the people with duplicate accounts were actually voicing dissent to the said proposed measure.
Philippine authorities like the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have vowed to investigate the dummy account incidents, while PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group warned that online identity theft can be punishable by imprisonment of up to 12 years.
Recently, social media has been rife with posts calling on Congress to repeal House Bill No. 6875, which would amend the Human Security Act of 2007. Recent developments showed several lawmakers mulling the withdrawal of their affirmative votes to the pending legislation.
However, bill supporter Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed that the fake account issue may only be part of a wider operation to scare people about the terror bill.
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