Facebook shuts down fake China-based accounts backing Duterte, Sara’s possible presidential bid
MANILA, Philippines — Social media giant Facebook has shut down several fake Facebook accounts and pages, the contents of which were supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte and the possible 2022 presidential bid of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
The fake accounts were traced to individuals from China’s Fujian province, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook security policy, said on Tuesday night.
According to Gleicher, the pages and accounts engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” with their posting about global news and matters relating to the West Philippine Sea and operations of the United States Navy in three languages — Chinese, English, and Filipino.
Other contents include criticism of critical media site Rappler and other issues relating to overseas Filipino workers, known to mostly supportive of Duterte.
“They focus most of their activities on Southeast Asia. They posted in Chinese, in Filipino, and in English about global news and current events, including Beijing’s interest in the South China Sea, HongKong, contents supportive of President Duterte and Sara Duterte’s potential run in the 2022 presidential elections, criticism of Rappler, issues relevant to overseas Filipino Workers, praise and some criticism of China,” Gleicher revealed in an online press conference.
“We are attributing this to individuals operating from the Fujian province of China. In addition, it’s worth noting, as often when we conduct one of these takedowns, we’ve shared information about this with our industry colleagues and with researchers,” he added.
This is the first of two networks tracked down by Facebook, the other being a domestic cluster with ties to the law enforcement sector, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
Gleicher also said that, unlike in the local setup, the discovery of the network in China was a result of Facebook’s independent investigation and their proactive work to expose such operations.
Last March 2019, Gleicher also revealed over 200 Facebook accounts belonging to a network managed by Nic Gabunada, Duterte’s social media strategist in the 2016 presidential elections.
Previously, Gabunada also worked for then President Benigno Aquino III’s camp and network giant ABS-CBN.
Sara Duterte-Carpio has been rumored to be part of the administration party for the 2022 polls. Talks of a possible showdown with Vice President Leni Robredo, the acknowledged leader of the opposition, increased after they fielded a senatorial lineup in the 2019 senatorial elections.
Gleicher said more details on the report would be released later on, with samples of the posts from the China-based network.
But one thing is for sure, Gleicher said: All the accounts exhibited “coordinated inauthentic behavior” (CIB) and were engaged in deceptive methods.
“So for both of them, the central use of fake accounts, as you know, is a necessary condition for us to determine something is CIB. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only deceptive [practice] they engaged in,” he explained.
“So we regularly see these networks using pages that don’t fully disclose who’s behind them. The patterns of engagements that they may have with these accounts aren’t just the fact that they’re fake, but it’s how they use the accounts to boost their contents,” he added.
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